The Korea Herald


Swedish diplomat offers glimpse into crowdless 'Korean Derby' in World Cup qualifying

By Yonhap

Published : Oct. 16, 2019 - 10:14

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If you were dying to find out more about the World Cup qualifying match between the two Koreas Tuesday evening that didn't have a live broadcast, the Twitter page for Joachim Bergstrom would have quenched your thirst.

Bergstrom, Sweden's ambassador to Pyongyang, uploaded photos and videos from the scoreless draw at Kim Il-sung Stadium in the North Korean capital, played as part of Group H play in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While there were no paying spectators in the stadium, diplomats stationed in Pyongyang, along with other international football officials, were on hand for the much-anticipated contest.

In one video, players from the two teams are seen getting mixed up near the halfline in what appears to be a testy moment, with South Korean captain Son Heung-min getting himself in among North Korean players and trying to separate the sides.

(Screenshot captured from Bergstrom's Twitter) (Screenshot captured from Bergstrom's Twitter)

Above the clip, Bergstrom wrote, "No fighting in front of the kids! Oh, but there are none here today. Emotions run high at times as #DPRK meets #ROK in #FIFA game -- but audience is sparse."

There were four yellow cards issued in this match, two per side.

Bergstrom also posted a video clip of the pre-game ceremony, when the South Korean anthem was played with the national flag on display.

The office of President Moon Jae-in, who has striven to maintain the momentum of the Korea peace process, also voiced disappointment about the North's refusal to allow fans in the stands and broadcast the game live.

"We find it very regrettable as well," a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.

South Korean people had expectations of a breakthrough from the sport event, as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics opened the way for a full-fledged peace initiative, she pointed out.

"We did our best (this time)," and it's regrettable that there was no PyeongChang-like accomplishment, she added.

It wasn't immediately clear why North Korea kept the public out of the match, which was expected to draw up to 40,000 partisan North Korean fans. South Korean players had braced themselves for a hostile environment, after Pyongyang declined to authorize trips by South Korean fans. No journalists and broadcasting crew from the South made the trip, either.

The South Korean team traveled to Pyongyang via Beijing and will also make a stopover in the Chinese capital on its way home. (Yonhap)