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DPRK has plans for future soccer success

Reporter: Omar Khan 丨 CCTV.com

11-16-2016 15:57 BJT

China is doing all it can to improve its football program, partly because an interest in the beautiful game from President Xi Jinping, but he is not the only Asian leader who wants to see better play on the pitch from the country’s national team.  

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has made football a priority, and he wants success on the global stage. It is message that is heard loud and clear at an academy in Pyongyang, which opened in 2013.

“So our goal is to train our students to become a great national team member and to make them super-talented players who can surpass Lionel Messi,” said Ri Yu-Il, North Korean football coach.

Ri has close links to the country’s greatest footballing moment: His father played in goal at the 1966 World Cup, when the underdog North Korean team stunned Italy 1-0 en route to the quarterfinals. It is an achievement the current crop of rising stars is keen to emulate.

“We came to the football academy in order to become successful at football, no matter what,” said one DPRK football player.

“My ambition is to be good at football so that I can bring glory to my country,” said another player.

But there is much work to do in the DPRK. The national currently languishes outside the world’s top 100 and has already been eliminated from qualifying for the next World Cup in Russia in 2018. In a bid to improve its fortunes, the DPRK has hired former Norway international Jorn Andersen as coach.

“They are trying to get more experience from outside now with me as national coach, my contacts from the whole world, in Europe, especially, try to get some impulse from the outside. It is very important that after the academy the best player can take the next step to Italy, to train there,” said Andersen.

As DPRK’s men struggle, they could seek inspiration from the country’s female players. The seniors have won the Asian Cup three times since 2000; the under-17s are reigning world champions,  meaning DPRK’s future Lionel Messi may be more likely to be a woman.

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