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Korea is rapidly becoming Crazy World’s favourite war-torn peninsula.
Following news last week that its footballers were deliberately dislocating their shoulders to get out of military service, North and South Korea are now at loggerheads over which national anthems and flags will be used when the two countries meet in a World Cup qualifier next month.
The Northerners, who fans of the impending apocalypse will remember are led by deranged lunatic Kim Jong-il (brilliantly, although perhaps not very accurately, parodied in Team America: World Police), want to share a joint flag and anthem – a jaunty folk ballad sung widely in both countries and rebranded cleverly by a team of marketing consultants as the “United Korean Anthem.”
The Southerners disagree, and demand that they use their own identifying standard and ditty.
It’s not the first time they've had a bit of a bicker.
The countries are still technically at war, with each state’s constitution declaring that their government is legitimate ruler of the whole peninsula, but they’ve been on ceasefire since 1953.
Crazy World advises caution: wars have kicked off over less when football is concerned. Just ask Honduras or El Salvador, who fought for six days in 1969 after national tensions bubbled over following rioting at an international match.
Anyway, it's surely better to remember both peoples as an enthusiastic bunch who have enriched several World Cups. First there was the North Koreans, who wooed Teesiders by beating Italy 1-0 at Ayresome Park during World Cup 1966.
They then faced Portugal in the quarter-final, and, with 50,000 Smoggies roaring them on with huge chants of “Ko-re-a”, stormed into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead. They were, alas, pegged back by four Eusebio goals, but the English were impressed.
“They came from the other side of the world as 1000-1 no-hopers,” tromboned the Daily Mirror. “They leave world football wondering how far they will advance."
Not very far at all, was the answer. As the North gradually cut itself off from the world, they never qualified again.
It was left to their pals in the South to carry the area's footballing hopes. Their crowning moment was hosting the 2002 World Cup, jointly and highly successfully, with Japan.
The South Korea fans, it turned out, were absolutely berserk, with their co-ordinated outfits, wild-eyed fanaticism and highly choreographed chants. It was like something out of Nazi Germany – but in a nice way, y’know.
They were even impressive here in England. Crazy World found itself in a boozer in New Malden, Surrey (home to Britain’s largest Korean population) during the World Cup 2006, and this was the scene that unfolded when the Reds popped a goal past Togo. The noise was akin to a fire at Battersea Dogs Home.
Batshit mental, maybe, but those Koreans were polite, too. “I was in here last week for the England match last week, and drunk fans were spitting on me,” sighed a local copper on duty that afternoon. “These people are lovely. They keep offering me sushi.”
Anyway. Whatever happens in Pyongyang on March 26, we’re guessing it won’t be boring. Watch this space...
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