Seoul, Oct 15 (IANS) The FIFA President will attend the 2022 World Cup qualifying match between South Korea and North Korea in Pyongyang on Tuesday, a spokesperson of the South Korean unification ministry said.
Gianni Infantino is scheduled to land in the North Korean capital aboard a private plane on Tuesday to watch the match at Kim Il-sung Stadium, the ministry said citing the international governing body of football, reports Efe news.
Infantino’s presence contrasts with the secrecy displayed by the North Korean regime with regards to the match, the first in three decades to be played between the two neighbors in the North.
After a diplomatic thaw in 2018 between the two countries, which have officially remained at war since the 1950s, North Korea has significantly hardened its stance towards its neighbor as the denuclearisation dialogue with the United States has remained deadlocked.
Since the spring, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime has issued multiple statements criticizing Seoul for not forcing Washington to change its stance. The North also carried out a series of weapon tests during this time.
Tuesday’s match is set to take place amid a hostile atmosphere, as Pyongyang has refused to issue visas for anyone from South Korea, including fans, journalists or TV crews, except players and support staff, while broadcasters have said that the match will not be aired live.
These restrictions led the press conference, held on Monday in Pyongyang by the South Korean team’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento and right-back Lee Yong, to be attended by only five North Korean journalists.
Representatives of the South Korean team have two internet connections at their disposal, one at the stadium and the other at Pyongyang’s famous Koryo Hotel, where the players are staying.
The clash between the two Koreas takes place on the third day of Group H in the second round of Asia’s qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
History favors the South, who have won seven of the 16 matches played between the two sides (eight ended in a draw), although the North managed to win their only match played at home in 1990.