29 June 2010

Deconstructing Chollima : A North Korean view

The Chollima may have failed to win a match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa but the fact that they qualified for the finals in the first place was a major achievement.

This is the view of Mun Si-song, a former high-ranking official at the DPR Korea Football Association who is now Head of the DPR Korea desk at AFC.

Mun said people tend to forget DPR Korea’s marvellous effort of qualifying for the finals after a long absence of 44 years.

DPR Korea lost 2-1 to Brazil, 7-0 to Portugal and 3-0 to Ivory Coast in Group G of the World Cup this year. They scored just once and conceded 12.

In an interview with www.the-afc.com, Mun hailed the never-say-die spirit displayed by Kim Jong-hun and his charges.

Hard-working team

“The end result might look unpleasant. But please bear in mind that the team has qualified to the World Cup after 44 years,” said Mun.

“If you see how hard the team worked over the past few years, I don’t think you will ever criticise them.

Mun Si-song
“I am not saying that they deserved accolades, but considering the difficulties the DPR Korea team faced on their road to South Africa compared to others, they, at least, should not be condemned.

“I am sorry for the team, they truly deserve recognition for what they've done and have achieved in the past years.”

Mun also expressed sadness at DPR Korea being tagged "the worst team from Asia" because of their performances compared with Korea Republic, Japan and Australia.

“I am not a tactician; don't ask me about statistics or whatsoever. But what I can see with my own eyes is that DPR Korea were dedicated in every match they played.

Group of Death

“They were in the Group of Death. But all DPR Korea players fought until the end and did their very best.

“It is a dream for every footballer in my country to play in the World Cup. It is the highest honour you can ever get in your football career.

“The only thing I need to admit is the team was lacking experience and international exposure.”

In response to a suggestion that North Korean players should play abroad, he said: “I don't think it will make much difference whether the players are playing domestically or abroad because football is about the team, not individuals.

“Individual brilliance might produce a goal but doesn’t necessarily give you a win.”

Top players

Still, Mun was quick to praise midfielder An Yong-hak for his performances. The 32-year-old, like star striker Jong Tae-se, was born in Japan and plays for Omija Ardija in the J-League. Jong, meanwhile, is in the ranks of Kawasaki Frontale.

“An was the best player for the DPR Korea in South Africa with his high work rate and determined character,” said Mun.

“He is an unsung hero who will never let the national team down. Jong also did reasonably well considering he is playing as the only out and out attacker in the squad.

“Apart from the Portugal game, the team played very well in general."

Mun, who was with the DPR Korea FA from 1998 to 2002, also reserved praise for head coach Kim Jong-hun.

“He has been fantastic. He is a very dedicated and brave person. In my opinion, he is the man to take the team forward."

More : afc.com website

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