October 16 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one of the few people to attend the so-called “ghost derby” between North and South Korea on Tuesday, says he’s disappointed no fans were allowed to watch the World Cup qualifier that ended 0-0.
The two arch-rivals played their first-ever competitive men’s match in Pyongyang but no fans or media were allowed in to what was an empty stadium with no live tv coverage either.
Whilst Infantino was quoted as telling the north Korean federation’s website about he was happy to have “witnessed the work that many do to bring happiness to people’s lives through football,” he made his feelings known about the regime’s spectator and news blackout.
South Korean broadcasters and journalists were denied access to the 50,000 capacity Kim Il Sung stadium while visiting fans were also excluded.
No explanation was given as to why home fans were not permitted to attend and the footballing world had to rely on intermittent updates sent from officials in the stadium. Even FIFA, who didn’t have a reporter in Pyongyang, had to rely on these updates.
It doesn’t augur well for proposals for the two Koreas to jointly stage the 2023 Womens’ World Cup.
“I was looking forward to seeing a full stadium for such a historic match but was disappointed to see there were no fans in the stands,” said Infantino.
“We were surprised by this and by several issues related to its live broadcast and problems with visas and access for foreign journalists.”
“For us, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are obviously paramount, but on the other hand it would be naïve to think we can change the world from one minute to the next.
“We raised these questions with the local association and we will certainly keep pushing so that football can have a positive influence in Korea DPR and other countries around the world.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com