Japan Secure Finals Spot
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
Japan Secure Finals Spot
(Duncan White) Telegraph Co.
Although the World Cup Soccer seems to be a topic which can be shared by the majority of people around the globe, one peculiarity of the game of 8th between Japan and North Korea which attracted the attention also of non-soccer freaks was the fact that it was held in neither of the countries of competing teams, and was played without any spectators.
In March, during the match between Iran and North Korea at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korean players and fans became upset with a referee's call. North Korean players rushed the referee, which practically forced the referee to book a North Korean player with a red card. North Korean spectators threw bottles and cans and seats into the pitch from the stands, and when the game was over, the referees were prevented from leaving the center of the pitch for about 30 minutes until members of the Korean People's Army showed up to escort them away under a shower of objects thrown from the stands. Iranian players were thrown rocks at as they were being interviews by reporters, and the bus to carry the team out of the stadium was beleaguered by the angry fans for two hours.
FIFA, soccer's world governing body, taking the incident seriously, sanctioned North Korea to have the following match with Japan relocated to Bangkok, and with no spectators allowed in the stadium. North Korean media, tightly controlled by the government, kept claiming that the loss, and the subsequent riot, was due to the wrong judgment by the referee, and would be unfair for them to be punished.
In the first game with North Korea, held in Saitama, Japan in February, Japan's government was nervous for any incident to occur because of number of conflicts between the two countries, including the issue of abductees, lingered, but as even the North Korean team coach admitted, "the game was played in a friendly atmosphere and our players fought with the utmost effort so we are pleased with that."
As the article reports, Japan has qualified to participate in the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany by winning this match against North Korea 2-0. On the other hand, North Korea has lost all five matches so far, with only one game remaining against Saudi Arabia, but no hope of being qualified for the finals irrespective of the result of the game.
This could have been a good reminder of the word "sport," that it has several meanings, one of which is described as "a pleasant, positive, generous person who does not complain about things they are asked to do or about games that they lose."
Japan won this time, but a pity of any sport is that the sport does not always win, hence doping and all the scandals that tarnish sports events, most phenomenally at the Olympics. But then, that seems to be a fact of life in any style of conflict, sporty of not.