25 September 2010

MFC ladies North Korea trip wins worldwide friends

BORO Ladies football team have returned from North Korea with “memories to last a lifetime”.

The team returned to Teesside in the early hours of yesterday following a four-day visit to the secretive the communist country.

MFC Ladies manager Marrie Wieczorek told the Gazette: “The trip was fantastic. We had an amazing time.”

Marrie, skipper Rachael Hine, 23, and team member Shannon Bewick, 17, had remained in London on their return to appear before millions television.

The 14-strong team and three coaches were invited to East Asia by the British Embassy in recognition of the strong bonds Middlesbrough has shared with North Korea since the 1966 World Cup.

The visit marked the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations opening with the UK - and cemented a friendship that has lasted over 40 years.

And despite losing two matches against local teams, Marrie said they were “touched” by hospitality they received. She said: “They were so friendly and warm it was unbelievable.”

The travel-weary team arrived last Saturday and by Sunday they took to the pitch. With just one TV channel, an incredible 23 million viewers saw Boro go down 6-2 against professional Korean women’s team, April 25. And bad luck continued when they were beaten by Galmaegi 5-0 on Tuesday.

Marrie said: “Everybody was saying you got beat but we played with professional teams so they were super-fit and fast. It would be the same as us playing against Arsenal or a top team.” Marrie said the stadium was packed with 6,000 people. She said: “We went out to warm up and waved to the crowds and they clapped and cheered. At the end of the game we ran round the outside of the field and they were leaning forward shaking our hands. It was brilliant and that’s my overriding memory - the warmth and friendship.”

Another highlight was meeting three surviving members of the 1966 Korean team, who famously beat Italy 1-0 at Ayresome Park.

Marrie said: “They were really lovely. We presented them with Boro shirts.”

During their stay the team also coached schoolchildren and visited the British Embassy to hand over a letter from MFC chairman and owner Steve Gibson to the Korean people.

British ambassador Peter Hughes told them: “These girls met more Koreans and shook more hands in five minutes than I have in two years.”

The trip attracted media interest worldwide. Marrie said she was told a picture of the team had even appeared on the front of the USA’s Washington Post.

She said of the trip: “I think the girls will remember it for the rest of their lives. They have all be very touched by it.”

Gazette Live

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