For the second time in two months, my heart is with the North Korean football (soccer) team.
News reports say the team – which turned in a gutsy and sportsmanlike performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – and its coach have been publicly shamed in a 6-hour harangue by party officials and ministers. As the Telegraph wrote:
The players were subjected to a “grand debate” on July 2 because they failed in their “ideological struggle” to succeed in South Africa, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media reported.
The team’s coach, Kim Jong-hun, was reportedly forced to become a builder and has been expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.
The coach was punished for “betraying” Kim Jong-un – one of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il’s sons and heir apparent.
Following ideological criticism, the players were then allegedly forced to blame the coach for their defeats.
Sure North Korea went out in the first round.
Yes, they lost miserably to Portugal 7- 0.
And, yes, *sigh* it is hardly surprising
to hear the North Korean regime express displeasure.
But the truth is that the ruling cadres are just missing the point.
The North Korean side played very well – they won over fans around the world in countries considered enemies of the North Korean state. That is a public relations win!
And heck, the Italians – champions from the previous World Cup – went out in the first round too!
After the North Korean team’s plucky opening performance against Brazil I wrote a post – To North Korea, With Love – to thank the players for reminding me of the positive contributions North Korea has to make to our global society. On days like today, when a group of gentlemen who left it all on the pitch only to come home and be berated for their efforts, it’s sometimes hard to remember.
But I do. I do remember. And for that – once again – I thank them.