Was North Korea’s Soccer Team Abused For Losing at the World Cup?
Fifa has launched an investigation into allegations that North Korea’s soccer team and coach were abused for losing all of their games at this year’s World Cup.
Last month, Radio Free Asia reported that upon returning to Pyongyang from South Africa, the team was summoned to a “grand debate” in front of 400 people, where they faced criticism over how they had failed at the “ideological struggle.” Furthermore, it is rumored that coach Kim Jung Hun was sentenced to hard labor for betraying the regime.
In addition, Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam reported that he had met several World Cup players in North Korea last month, but coach Kim was not present. “There was an unconfirmed report that these players have gone through torture or something like that, but I can’t confirm that.”
This year was the first time in forty-four years that North Korea qualified for the World Cup. The team, whose members were personally selected by Kim Jong Il, went up against Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. At first broadcast of live games was banned in North Korea, but when the team held their own against Brazil, losing only 1-2, officials decided to air the games. However the next game against Portugal resulted in a brutal defeat of 0-7.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that the organization has sent a letter to North Korea’s soccer organization to get more information. This is the first time FIFA has investigated alleged human rights abuses, despite past calls by NGOs to look into the safety of teams of nations such as Sudan, Iran and North Korea.