Kim Jong-un has promised to produce North Korean football players that will be more talented than Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, who is widely considered the best footballer of his generation.
Ri Yu He, the coach of the country’s International School of Pyongyang Football, stated that North Korea has prioritised football training. “We train our youngsters to become more talented players than even Lionel Messi,” he said, adding: “For now, we are looking to dominate Asia and in the future, I hope we can dominate the world.”
The North Korean football team is currently far behind on their goal, with them ranked 126th in the world out of the 205 teams listed in the FIFA rankings. This puts them behind China, who are 84th, and considerably behind fierce rivals South Korea, who are ranked 44th. A video emerged back in 2014 that reportedly showed the country’s state controlled media informing its citizens that their national team had reached the World Cup final in Brazil, beating Japan 7-0, USA 4-0 and China 2-0 in the group stages and facing Portugal for the cup.
North Korea has a troubled history when it comes to football. Back in the World Cup 2006 qualifying stages, North Korean fans erupted in violence after a referee failed to award their national team with a penalty kick against Iran, rushing the pitch and refusing to let the Iranian team leave the Pyongyang stadium on their tour bus. The chaos resulted in FIFA prohibiting North Korean from staging a World Cup match in their country, with their next home match against Japan being held in an empty stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
It was also reported that during the World Cup 2010, the national squad’s great performance during the qualifying stages saw North Korea choose to air their next match for their citizens. Unfortunately, this match saw them being bested 7-0 by Portugal, which reportedly led to the country refusing to air any football matches from that point on.