Posted: 6/19/2009


       What will Our Dear Leader Kim Jong-iL do now?   North Korea have qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.  Live sport is never shown on TV in the DPRK and the main newspaper, also heavily  censored, doesn't even have a sports section. Only North Koreans with Japanese parentage are allowed to travel outside the country, and soccer matches from abroad have the commercial advertising banners blacked out.Unlike South Korea, where you can enjoy extra large cokes, big macs and small dogs, rice and more rice is on offer.  Perhaps Dear Leader will use rent-a-fans in the stadiums of South Africa? Look at their official web site, it's hilarious. Note the section on reunification, and also shop, for souvenirs, most of which feature weapons. Oh, you can pay in dollars and euros!!

      I was at Ayresome Park in Middlesborough in June, 1966 when Pak Doo Ik scored the only goal of the match to beat Italy in the final group stage match and qualify for the quarter-final against Portugal at Everton's Goodison Park in Liverpool.  The North Koreans haven't played in a World Cup since.  Two contrasting tournaments on TV this week. The Confederations Cup from four South African venues in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg and Bloemfontain, while the lower key UEFA U 21 championships are being played in Sweden's south and west coast cities of Malmo, Halmstad, Halsingborg and Gothenburg. 

      A couple of weeks ago I was at Gammla Ullevi in downtown Gothenburg for an Allsvenska match. There was big advertising in the city 'The Stars of Today and The Superstars of Tomorrow', was the theme.  Well, Gothenburg is a REAL soccer city, home to World Cup, UEFA Finals, the Gothia Cup and 4 Alsvenska clubs: IFK, GAIS, Oergryte and BK Hacken.

      Both the matches played so far in the newly opened Gammla Ullevi have been sell-outs with 16,000 fans for Spain v Germany (0-0) and  Spain  v England (0-2) . Sweden, the favourites don't even play there in the first round. 

      Down under I was bored stiff with the opening two matches on television, a dull draw between South Africa, Bafana! Bafana! the boys! The boys! and Iraq,(0-0) and the very one sided Spain v New Zealand, (5-0)  USA were terrible in their first two matches and while they will make it to the World Cup next year, they will probably cast off their manager Bob Bradley and go for a more experienced foreign one. WHERE ARE YOU BORA?   I sat with Bora Mulitenovic 18 months ago at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria for a Premier Soccer League match and I hadn't realised he was now coaching Iraq-VERY cautiously.

       As you may know its would not be a first for USA to hire a foreigner. The Germans came to New Mexico in the mid 1940 to work on the A bomb and H bomb, Bora coached USA to the second round at FIFA World Cup 1994 and of course George Bush II-the dumber, used Tony Blair as his poodle during the Iraq War debates!!!   This month in World Cup and Confederation Cup matches USA has let in 10 goals-two more than the whole of 2008, and the attack is underwhelming. DeMarcus Beasley of Rangers and some lesser known losers need to be replaced.  

      USA fans have so far bought more World Cup tickets than any other country. According to my friends on the ground in the Southern Hemisphere the locals are arriving late and sitting anywhere they want and some stadiums have been less than half full.  How many will show up for Saturday's prime offering in Johannesburg, Iraq v New Zealand and Sunday's Egypt v USA in Rustenburg? Certainly not enough to do the wave!!