North Korean return to world football sours after players chase referee after Japan loss

October 2 – Rarely courting publicity in the international arena, North Korea’s footballers have been thrust into the spotlight for manhandling the referee after crashing out of the Asian Games with a 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to Japan.

North Korea boss Sin Yong Nam said his team’s behaviour had been ‘acceptable’ despite captain Jang Kuk Chol and team mate Kim Kyong Sok persuing the referee in chaotic scenes after the final whistle.

Korea lost the game following a controversial late penalty converted by Yuta Matsumura only six minutes after they had drawn level. Security officials raced on to the pitch to pull the players away yet Sin defended his team in the aftermath.

“I admit that our players were a little bit overexcited in the match but it is football,” he said. “There are confrontations in football matches … I think our behaviour is acceptable.”

North Korea had won all four of their previous matches without conceding a goal.

The Asian Games marks a return to the international arena for the country’s men’s national football team who had not played a single competitive fixture for almost four years since the 2022 World Cup Asia qualifiers at the end of 2019, last facing Lebanon in a 0-0 draw on November 19.

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