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17 Oct, 2019 12:48

‘It was like war’: South Korea reveal ill-tempered World Cup qualifying clash with North Korea in Pyongyang

‘It was like war’: South Korea reveal ill-tempered World Cup qualifying clash with North Korea in Pyongyang

A South Korea Football Association official said his country’s World Cup qualifier against neighbors North Korea this week was “like war” after the two sides battled out a goalless draw in Pyongyang.

The two teams met in the North Korean capital in an empty stadium in a match that was not broadcast after the host nation refused to screen the match live.

And, according to key South Korean figures involved in the fixture, the matchup was far from cordial as the two neighboring nations contested an ill-tempered clash.

"To be honest, the game was so tough that I think we were very lucky already to be back with no one injured," said Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-Min once he and his teammates arrived at Incheon Airport on Thursday.

"We could even hear many of very offensive curses from the other side."


The vice-president of the South Korean Football Association, Choi Young-Il, accused North Koreas players of strongarm tactics and an overly aggressive approach.

"It was like war," he said.

"They would use everything from elbows to hands to knees to fend off our players. It was really difficult.

"North Koreans wouldn't even make eye contact when I talked to them, not to mention respond.”

The tetchy encounter in Pyongyang was played with the longstanding backdrop of tensions between the two nations. The two nations are technically still at war, with the 1950-1953 war between the countries halted by a truce, but not a peace treaty.

Relations between the two countries, and their very different ideologies, have been tense ever since, and while there have been moves to try to warm the icy relationship between the two nations, the uneasy relationship still continues.

North Korea’s handling of the game has come under criticism from the South, with Choi revealing that discussions will take place over a potential complaint being raised with FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation.

But Swedish ambassador to North Korea Joachim Bergstrom – one of the few spectators allowed inside the stadium for the match – shared a video of South Korea striker Son trying to calm down players from both sides, tweeting: “Emotions run high at times.”

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said on Thursday it was "very disappointing" that the North did not permit the match to be shown live.

Also on rt.com History in the making: North Korea to host South Korea in Pyongyang World Cup qualifier