And that came after the 1966 World Cup, after North Korea had beaten Italy, one of the best sides in the world at the time, and nearly taken down Portugal in the quarterfinals, after they’d become the first Asian side to advance from the group stage. Everybody else thought they’d been close to world beaters.
I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility, especially after they were humiliated by Portugal today in–what certainly qualifies as horrible timing–the first sports event ever shown live on North Korean TV.
They did a time-filling piece in the World Cup highlights show, featuring the members of the 1966 North Korea team that did so well in that tournament. Of course, they could all have been impostors, or brainwashed to pretend that nothing bad happened to them afterwards, but on the face of it they seemed like quite plausible aged ex-footballers. Several of them were wearing medals, suggesting that they might be heroes back in the Motherland. So I’m thinking that, unless evidence is presented to the contrary, losing a game of football in the World Cup is not a capital offence even in North Korea.
Anyway, the rumour that some of the current squad had gone AWOL seems to have been nothing more than a rumour. They appeared to be all present and correct at the Portugal game.
I’ll check out a copy this evening and get you the details, but a former North Korean prisoner named Kang Chol-Hwan mentions meeting one of the soccer players from the North Korean team in labour camp. IIRC, the reason he was in prison camp wasn’t because they lost so much as because he (and several other players) spent the night before the game they lost partying and getting drunk. Again, I’ll check the details a little later.
I have read a lot about the DPRK and I don’t think it’s a joke at all. In a regime like that, people have been punished for far worse trangressions. And those punishments aren’t based on some rule of law, but the whims of a complete psychopath with a God complex.
Do I think that all of these guys are going to death camps? No. Not yet. Do I think they could be assigned to shitwork like cleaning nuclear waste? Yep. Could family members get tossed out of universities and shipped from Pyongyang to the hinterlands? Yep. I would guess that these guys will lose extra rations that they enjoy. That puts them at risk of starvation like everyone else.
But anything is possible. Kim Jong Il managed to get a live feed of the game from what I read. So after the state press crowed about the game against Brazil, the guys went out and laid an egg in front of the entire nation. I wouldn’t doubt that the media had talked about how Kim Jong Il advised the coach on strategy after Brazil. After all, that meatball has invented half the shit in the country and personally advised actors and actresses on the there performances if you believe the state press. To fuck up like this is to embarrass the head meatball and Embarrasing the Dear Leader on live TV is not a good thing.
I’m skeptical too. If for no other reason then imprisoning loosing teams after they got back from foreign sporting events would be a pretty sure way to ensure that loosing athletes, at least those without a lot of family back in the old country, are likely to defect rather then return.
Well, the Soviet Union circa 1980 was a much less closed and totalitarian society than North Korea. Not saying that the North Koreans are doing anything unpleasant to their players - just that comparing them to the Soviet Union in 1980 is not really useful. Remember that Gorbachev was already in the Politburo, and would become General Secretary of the Communist Party in five years.
I was just thinking about this tonight at work, mainly cause I was surprised that a team that could hold Brazil to 2 goals, would simply collapse in a rout to Portugal. But stranger things have happened, only one thing I could think of , was that they threw the game.
Im not sure how betting is done on WC games, but presumeably there is a lot of money being bet legally as well as under the table or off the books as the continentals say. The team itself was not going to go any further, as far as I could tell, so if Kim wanted to make some hard currency, would it be possible to bet on portugal to take NK by a lot of points , rather than a simple win ?
So if it was the over/under, Kim and co , would take portugal to win by x amount of goals. Or is that completely outlandish.