After his visit to Lebanon, the FIFA President today embarked upon a tour of several East Asian countries by attending the first-ever competitive match in Pyongyang between Korea DPR and Korea Republic.
During his visit, Gianni Infantino met President Ri Ryong Nam and several officials of the DPR Korea Football Association, and also visited their headquarters and the Pyongyang International Football School, where he not only heard about the project that involves around 200 boys and girls but also had the opportunity to challenge the young students to a very special and improvised football match, in which the CEO of the FIFA Foundation and FIFA Legend Youri Djorkaeff also played.
“This is my first time in Pyongyang, and I have been able to witness the work that many do to bring happiness to people’s lives through football. There are 25 million people living in Korea DPR, and football is by far the most popular sport,” said Infantino.
The conversations with the Korea DPR Football Association touched upon topics such as the development of football in the country and the challenges posed by the sanctions imposed.
Later, Infantino watched the FIFA World Cup 2022™ qualifier between Korea DPR and Korea Republic, where he met the President of the Korea Football Association and officials of the DPR Korea Football Association. Among the subjects of conversation was a possible joint bid of both Koreas to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2023.
“I was looking forward to seeing a full stadium for such a historic match but was disappointed to see there were no fans in the stands,” said the FIFA President. “We were surprised by this and by several issues related to its live broadcast and problems with visas and access for foreign journalists. For us, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are obviously paramount, but on the other hand it would be naïve to think we can change the world from one minute to the next. We raised these questions with the local association and we will certainly keep pushing so that football can have a positive influence in Korea DPR and other countries around the world. This week, we launched a worldwide programme that will combine the power of football with schools, and we recently played an important role in a first positive step towards women being allowed in stadiums in Iran. I hope and I will do my very best to ensure that football can contribute, even if in a small way, to improve several things that we believe should change in several societies.”
The FIFA President will continue his trip with visits to Mongolia, Bangladesh, China PR, Laos, Brunei and the Philippines in the coming days.