North Korea’s footballers received a heroes’ welcome after last week qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1966, according to state media.
The North’s squad returned home Saturday, greeted by government officials at the airport and crowds of people on their way to a banquet in Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
“Sportspersons congratulated players and coaches on their success, putting garlands around their necks and presenting them with bouquets,” KCNA said.
“A lot of Pyongyangites turned out to streets of the city… and enthusiastically welcomed the proud sons of the nation.”
The North Koreans, whose only previous World Cup finals appearance was in England 43 years ago, secured their place in the 2010 tournament in South Africa with a typically dour 0-0 draw away at Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
In the 1966 showpiece in England, the North Koreans became many people’s second team as they beat mighty Italy on the way to the quarter-finals, where they went out to a Eusebio-inspired Portugal 5-3.
But in recent years the team has made little impact on the international stage.
Football is the most popular sport in the North but Pyongyang’s leadership banned the national squad from travelling abroad after losing to arch-rivals Japan and South Korea in qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.
The North’s team returned to international football at the Bangkok Asian Games in late 1999 but did not compete in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France or the 2002 edition.
The North’s return to the World Cup finals comes amid grave international concern after Pyongyang test-fired several rockets and tested a nuclear bomb.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!