The North Korean Women’s Football Team arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on December 5, 2017. – Shizuo Kambayashi / AP / SIPA
A poster more often quoted in the international breaking news than plastered in front of the stages of football . The round ball team Japanese is about to receive Saturday the selection North Korean for a match in the final phase of the East Asian Football Cup, a competition that will also put on the same ground countries with complicated relationships: North Korea – South Korea December 12 and Japan – South Korea and China – North Korea on the 16th.
In a political context stretched against North Korean missiles and nuclear tests, allowing these matches against the athletes (women and men) sent by Pyongyang was not an easy task. North Korean citizens are normally banned from entering Japan as part of the sanctions against Kim Jong-un .
Welcomed like rockstars
For the occasion, the Japanese authorities therefore granted extraordinary visas to Chollimas – the nickname of the North Korean national team – who landed Tuesday at Haneda Airport, Tokyo . They received a welcome rockstars, not Japanese fans, but from dozens of pro-Pyongyang members of Koreans residing in Japan.
After a long immigration procedure , the smiling players, all dressed in a red coat, and then half an hour later the players in black coats matched, so emerged in front of a forest of North Korean flags, greeted by cries of “mansed! , The Korean equivalent of ” banzai ” Japanese.
“The least thing would be to win”
For this local poster, Vahid Halilhodzic, the coach Japanese Samurai Blue , will line up a selection of players who play in the Japanese league, and will focus on the game rather than the political context, just a few months away from the 2018 World Cup: “It’s part of our preparation for next year, so it’s must play with ambition. ”
In front of the journalists, the Franco-Bosnian coach set the course: “We play at home, the least things would be to win.” At the last World Cup, Japan, led by Alberto Zaccheroni, had not passed the group stage.