North Korea Plays South Korea In Empty Stadium For World Cup Qualifier

Air China flight to Pyongyang for a World Cup qualifier match against North Korea from the airport in Beijing on Monday Oct. 14 2019

Air China flight to Pyongyang for a World Cup qualifier match against North Korea from the airport in Beijing on Monday Oct. 14 2019

Sharing top spot in their qualifying group, the two sides entered the showdown at Kim Il Sung Stadium knowing the victor would move clear in the table.

Of course, North Korea and South Korea have a tense relationship. the two countries are technically still at war - and reports say everything surrounding the match was strained.

North and South Korea - two countries technically at war - will step onto the Kim Il Sung stadium turf for a match with no live broadcast, no South Korean fans and no global media in attendance.

As for fans who wanted to follow the match. their only option to watch it live consisted of brief posts about the match on FIFA and Asian Football Confederation websites.

Two Korean soccer stars played in the match - the South's Son Heung-min, a forward at Tottenham Hotspur in England, and the North's Han Kwang-song, a striker at the Italian giants, Juventus. Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim booked North Korea's Ri Yong Jik and Ri Un Chol, and Kim Young-gwon and Kim Min-jae from the South.

The South Korean team had arrived in Pyongyang on Monday accompanied only by their coaches and support staff.

The Seoul-based Korean Football Association said they believed there were also no North Korean spectators at the 50,000-capacity stadium.

According to worldwide reports. the South Koreans were forced to leave their cell phones at the South Korean Embassy - and communication to and from the game was almost impossible.

Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino attended the landmark match, but images relayed from the venue depicted empty stands.

"Nothing is guaranteed in terms of communication so we have to use whatever works at any given moment", a KFA official said, adding they were now relying on emails.

AFC general secretary Windsor John said the restrictive arrangements were only to be expected. "We are not surprised".

South Korean football fans were outraged over the blackout and demanded that the North be held accountable for not following global standards.

The match was attended by a handful of officials but no fans, mirroring the chill in bilateral ties as North Korea takes offense at ongoing worldwide sanctions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in came to office in May 2017 pledging warmer ties with the North. Relations improved, leading to three summits with Kim the following year.

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