Seoul, Oct 16 (IANS) North and South Korea’s national football teams played a goalless draw pitting the neighbours against each other in Pyongyang in the first game in 30 years.
The match, played at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung stadium on Tuesday evening, was not broadcast live, a decision taken by the North Korean authorities, who banned its citizens from attending the game, reports Efe news.
Usually national team matches are not broadcast live in North Korea, with the team’s previous international game, a 2-0 win over Lebanon, being broadcast on television a day after the encounter.
It was expected that the first game between the neighbouring countries — technically at war for nearly 70 years — in the North Korean capital since 1990 would be an exception and broadcast live but that was not to be the case.
Following diplomatic rapprochement in 2018, North Korea has toughened its stance against Seoul as nuclear disarmament negotiations with the US, South Korea’s main military ally, remained in a deadlock.
All of this resulted in Pyongyang deciding not to issue visas to anyone other than the South Korea players and the coaching staff, leaving out not only fans but also journalists and television crew members.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, however, attended the game, the South Korean government announced.
News that the kick off whistle had been blown and the historic match was underway hit Twitter 15 minutes after the kick off by the Korea Football Association, FIFA and Asian Football Confederation.
The only incident reported during the first half, apart from the absence of fans in the stands, was an altercation between players from both teams shortly after kick off and that North Korea’s left back Ri Yong-jik was shown a yellow card at the half-hour mark.
During the second half, South Korea’s head coach Paulo Bento sent Hwang Hee-chan and towering Kim Shin-wook (1.98m) onto the field replacing the attacking duo of Na Sang-ho and Hwang Ui-jo.
The changes were not enough to break the scoreless draw that reigned till the end of the game — the third match day of Group H, in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.