World Cup: North Korea blunder gives it a built-in excuse for failure


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For reasons that are not entirely clear, North Korea seems to have to learn everything the hard way.

Take the World Cup, for example. The rules clearly state that a team must be made up of 23 players, three of whom must be goalkeepers.


But North Korea decided to select only two real goalkeepers and named a striker as its third goalkeeper. The idea was to carry 21 field players compared to 20 for all other 31 competing teams.

Cheating, is what it amounted to, really.

But FIFA, decided that this was not at all sporting and has told North Korea that by designating forward Kim Myong-won as a goalkeeper means that he can only play as a goalkeeper during the tournament.

In other words, the North Korean ploy backfired in two ways: The team has only two goalkeepers at its disposal -- so an injury and a red card would leave it with none -- and it can’t use Kim at all, unless it wants to put a forward in the net.

Not that it matters in the long run. Coach Kim Jong-hun’s team plays Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal in the first round, after which it will be on a plane headed home. All it has achieved by the bizarre move is to ruin what little chance it had, which was none.

But perhaps that was the real ploy all along. Now North Korea can claim a conspiracy to deprive it of the right to field its best team. Not that North Korean fans will know anything about the tournament. The country’s oddball leader, Kim Jong Il, said last year that only North Korean victories could be shown on television.

Since there are likely to be none of those, the fans are out of luck.

Their fans in South Africa have been shut out, too, since North Korea arrived. The team has held four training sessions and has barred foreign reporters from all of them.

Embarrassment, no doubt.

--Grahame L. Jones, reporting from Johannesburg