North Korea to host South for Fifa World Cup qualifier in October
North Korea will play a World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Pyongyang in October, putting aside political tensions to host their first men’s competitive game against their arch-rivals, officials said on Friday.
North Korea, who reached the World Cup in 1966 and 2010, have applied to play the game at the 50,000-capacity Kim Il Sung Stadium on October 15, the South’s Korean Football Association said. There was no immediate confirmation from the Asian Football Confederation.
The development should ease concerns over the fixture, which comes at a time of renewed tensions between the two Koreas following a series of missile tests by the North.
South Korea hasn’t played in North Korea, with whom they are technically still at war, in nearly 30 years since a pro-unification friendly in 1990.
The South, whose players include English Premier League star Son Heung-min, will be favorites for the game after qualifying 10 times for the World Cup and reaching the semi-finals on home soil in 2002.
The two Koreas were set on a collision course at Asia’s World Cup qualifying draw last month, when they were bracketed together along with Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka in Group H.
“For us it is a sport — the goal is to qualify,” South Korea coach Paulo Bento told AFP at the draw in Kuala Lumpur.
“The message I will share with the players when we play against North Korea is to give them the same respect we will have for any other teams we will play against.”
Sporting occasions have previously set the scene for reconciliation between the two sides, especially last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea which heralded an unprecedented warming of ties.
South Korea is expected to host the return fixture on June 4 next year.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.