Despite its failure to join the 2014 World Cup, North Korea broadcast the taped version of the match between England and Italy on Monday, pointing to the reclusive country’s World Cup fever.
Italy's Mario Balotelli, left, challenges for the ball with England's Gary Cahill during the group D World Cup soccer match between England and Italy at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Yonhap-AP)
The England-Italy match was broadcast by the country’s official Korean Central Television starting from 8:24 p.m., more than one day after it actually took place, according to a broadcaster in Seoul.
The television channel earlier covered the opening ceremony of the Brazil World Cup, also about a day later, before broadcasting the opening match between Brazil and Croatia as well as games between Chile and Australia, Mexico and Cameroon, and Spain and the Netherlands.
The North Korean TV footage showed that Pyongyang produced the films by taping what a South Korean broadcaster had aired, with the name of the South Korean company blurred on the screen.
The unusual airing of the international matches in the reclusive country, despite its failure to win a ticket to football’s quadrennial showcase, reflects the increased popularity of the sport there, watchers said.
North Korea won its way to the World Cup in 2010 for the first time in 44 years and the country’s television broadcasting of the soccer matches in South Africa drew keen international media attention then because outside information and materials are strictly kept away from common North Korean citizens.
The North renewed its agreement with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union to use broadcast rights for the Brazil World Cup matches in 2012 as they did for the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
Football now appears to be one of the most popular sports in the North with the Kim Jong-un regime recently opening an international soccer school and renovating stadiums in the country.
Ri Tong-il, the vice envoy to the North Korean representative to the United Nations, hinted at the soccer fever in the communist country by saying in a U.N. event last week, “isn’t everyone very interested in the World Cup regardless of their country’s participation in it.” (Yonhap)