Brazil was going to stomp North Korea – and I was going to cheer every second.
But North Korea was spunky. No silly theatrical dives, no overly-dramatic facial expressions or picked fights. They ran like the wind. When they fell or tripped, they got right back up – and patted the back of any Brazilian player involved. They held off the Brazilian side well into the second half of the match out of sheer grit and determination. As the minutes ticked by, I couldn’t help but admire these men for standing firm against a football institution like Brazil.
And by the end of the match? Well, we all knew they couldn’t win going down 2 goals to nil against the Samba Kings but I found myself cheering — like, jump up and down, pump fists in the air, cheering – when North Korea scored in the 89th minute.
It is so easy to hate on a country home to a ruling structure that desires no friends. Dear Ruler cares next-to-nothing for the lives of his country’s citizens and snubs his nose at every international norm of expected behavior. Pyongyang send its diplomats out to engage the world in one-sided theatrics that rarely consist of anything other than threats.
The North Korean side reminded me that to despise a system and those who control it is not the same as despising a nation of people who – like everyone else around the world — want nothing more than a roof over their head and food on their family table. North Koreans are starving intellectually and physically behind a curtain made of ….. iron.
They have no real North Koreans fans at the tournament to cheer them on – mainly because the ruling regime refuses to allow its citizens to travel. The small groups of red-clad fans in the stands are reportedly imported “volunteers” from China.
Still North Korea’s football players (who are undoubtedly under an immense amount of fear-tinged pressure) gave us all a rare and valuable glimpse of a different kind of contribution North Korea can make to the world…
… and for that, I thank them.