Iranian Politics Opens Door For N. Korea

Football and politics are rarely friendly bed fellows. Often the beautiful game is seen as an escape from political troubles and an opportunity to indulge in a world devoid of any political leanings.

So when football and politics do cross paths, it signals the strength of importance to the players, that they are willing to step out from behind the veil of football celebrity and express their political opinions.

This is exactly what happened on Wednesday night, when Iran met South Korea in a World Cup qualifier in Seoul. Six of the Iranian players sported green wristbands in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and they were not alone.

Throughout the past few days hundreds of thousands of people have marched through the capital Tehran in protest at the outcome of the presidential poll and also in memory of 20 protestors who were killed in supposedly peaceful electoral demonstrations. A ban on all foreign journalists filming or reporting from the street rallies has been imposed by re-elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinead in an attempt to limit the global impact of the marches, but images revealing the scale of the protest have reached media agencies worldwide.

The political defeat could have had an effect on the nations players on Wednesday night, as a win would have seen them qualify for next years World Cup. Instead, they could only manage a goalless draw, allowing North Korea to qualify for the first time since 1966, thanks to another goalless draw against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.

Hardly a dominant force in world football, North Korea are a definite unknown quantity, with all their semi-professional players playing in their native K-League, but they must surely be looking forward to a possible match-up with neighbours South Korea on the world stage.

With the politics of Kim Jong Il heavily monitored globally in the ultra secretive and closed country, the world’s media descending upon them in South Africa will be a completely new experience for the team and it will be a test of their mental toughness if they are able to put the attention to one side and concentrate solely on their football during the competition.

Iran, unfortunately for them appeared unable to do this and perhaps rightly so, because as much as it pains me to say this, some things are just more important than football.

Tags: Iran, World Cup

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Tom 20 June 2009 at 10:15am

I like the article Dan, good work. You could have mentioned Hans Blix trying to break people’s balls though.

Jonathan 20 June 2009 at 1:23pm

Also last time North Korea got to the World Cup we won it, surely it’s another World Cup where we’re destined to win.

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