If a football match is played and no one outside of the stadium can watch it, did it really happen?
Tomorrow in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), DPR Korea and Korea Republic, our Taegeuk Warriors, will play a World Cup Qualifying match at Kim Ilsung Stadium. The match will kick off at 5:30 PM KST/4:30 AM EST, and there will be no live broadcast of the match.
It’s important to take a minute to understand how this happened. Any match between these two countries is bound to be tense, but this situation is quite unique. For reference, 2008 was the last time that these two nations were to play a competitive World Cup Qualifying match in North Korea. That match, part of the final round of AFC World Cup qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, was instead played in Shanghai, China.
This time around, the two nations are meeting in the second round of qualifying. In September, the KFA reached out to the AFC to inform them that they had not received any responses from the North Korean FA about match logistics. They had asked questions about training sites, what equipment they could bring, and where they would be staying in Pyongyang. After the AFC intervened and stepped in to make sure that the North Korean FA confirmed these details, the match was set for October 15 at the Kim Ilsung Stadium. Before then, it was still possible that the match would again be held in China.
The next hurdle was for the broadcast to be set up. During the second round of AFC World Cup qualifying, the AFC allows each host country to negotiate the broadcast rights for the matches they host. As such, it was up to the Korean broadcasters (one of SBS, KBS, or MBC) to negotiate with the North Korean FA. Since North Korean broadcast infrastructure is not at the standards used by South Korean broadcasters, it’s possible that they would have had to bring in a lot of equipment. In the end, even though the communications were held through the South Korean Ministry of Unification, no deal could be reached with North Korea to have a live broadcast of the match. It is reported that North Korea asked for a large sum (1.2 million USD) for the broadcast contract and all three South Korean broadcasters balked at the sum.
Adding on to this lack of broadcast is the fact that North Korea also denied visas for all South Korean journalists that had requested to travel and cover the match. Instead, the KFA staff will be sending periodic updates via fax/internet to info centers in Seoul to report on the match. There will be a tape delayed broadcast on North Korean networks at a later date and hopefully highlights as well. We will have to make do with what we can get.
After Paulo Bento rotated his squad for the 8-0 win over Sri Lanka this past Thursday, it is likely that the rested players will return to the starting XI for this highly charged match. Here’s how I think we’ll lineup against North Korea:
When: October 15, 5:30 PM KST/4:30 AM EST
Where: Kim Ilsung Stadium, Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Please follow along on Twitter @taegeuktavern where we will attempt to provide the latest info from the match.
Prediction: A nervy 1-0 win for our Taegeuk Warriors. Let’s get it.