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In North Korea, enjoying football is 'taboo'

The country’s public relations officer has revealed the squad’s overpowering sense of duty to their people is greater than any pleasure derived from playing the game.

The country kick off their Group B Asian Cup campaign on 10 January.
The country kick off their Group B Asian Cup campaign on 10 January.

A REPRESENTATIVE OF North Korea has explained how enjoying football is considered taboo amongst their playing squad and secondary to the responsibility of representing the nation ahead of the Asian Cup.

The country kick off their Group B campaign on 10 January and must overcome Uzbekistan, China and Saudi Arabia to reach the knockout stages of the competition.

But while the colourful celebrations of several other Asian nations have lit up numerous international competitions, the North Korean mindset is somewhat different according to their public relations officer Lee Kang-Hong.

He told Goal: “To enjoy is taboo for us. I heard Japanese players told ‘we want to enjoy football’ but I can’t understand it. I think football lovers can enjoy it but the players, as representatives of thecountry, have to think about their primary standpoint.”

The east Asian nation aren’t among the favourites to advance to the knock-out stages of the competition but remain confident of reaching the semi-finals.

Kang-Hong continued: “We aim to be in the last four (at this tournament). We are drawn in a difficult group but if we aim to participate in Olympic Games or World Cup, it is inevitable we will play such strong teams.

“China have tall players and they are a bit rough but we can cope with it. But I think our team play cleanly and we will stay true to our values.”

The use of the internet is heavily restricted in North Korea but typical rules have been relaxed so that rival nations can be watched prior to the tournament by the country’s coaching staff.

“We watch our opponents’ games via the internet. In our country we can’t access the internet on a regular basis and we must apply or register to use the internet so our FA can see the foreign info. Also ambassadors abroad have sent us relevant videos.”

Takashi Sugiyama, Goal.com

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