DPRK Domestic Football Match – Mangyongdae Prize Cup
On April 16th Koryo Tours had the honour of taking the first group of tourists ever to attend a domestic football match in North Korea, something we have been trying to do for years finally coming to fruition! The match in question was part of the Mangyongdae Prize Cup tournament that takes place every April over the period of the birthday of President Kim Il Sung (April 15th) and features all the top teams in the DPRK highest division playing against each other in the Kim Il Sung stadium.
The match we attended was between April 25th (the main military team, named for the foundation date of the Korean People’s Army) and Gyonggongop (the Light Industry team), with April 25th hotly tipped for victory due to their almost total dominance of North Korean sport for the last few years as well as the presence of several World cup veterans in their ranks.
The First half was somewhat pedestrian, the small crowd was quiet, and no real chances arose, however about 20 minutes into the second half April 25th had a penalty appeal denied and when Gyonggongop broke away from their own penalty area to score a very well taken goal the army’s team collectively and petulantly spat the dummy and surrounded the referee and linesman demanding the goal be denied on the grounds that it was offside (it definitely wasn’t, I was perfectly placed to see that it was at least a metre onside), farcical scenes ensued with the management also getting onto the pitch to remonstrate with the ref who for some reason refused to put his foot down and start sending players off for getting in his face and this weakness was rewarded by the April 25th players eventually deciding to simply sit down and refuse to take part any further. Confusion reigned as the protest stretched on for a further 25 minutes until the 90th minute when, instead of blowing for time, the ref assembled both teams to restart the game at 1-0 to the plucky underdogs. The ‘3rd half’ was a 20 minute long scrappy affair with passions running high, April 25th were denied an equaliser by some acrobatic goalkeeping and the match ended with a well deserved victory for Gyonggongop in simply the strangest game I have ever witnessed. Later in the tour I visited some local teams (amateur and professional) to find out more about local matches, as well as speaking with some knowledgeable members of the public about the structure of the league and other basic information and we will post more information on how football in North Korea works in the future.
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