Football eases North and South Korea tension

North and South battle for a high ball at the Seoul World Cup stadium. Picture: Reuters

North and South battle for a high ball at the Seoul World Cup stadium. Picture: Reuters

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North and South Korea put aside bitter political divisions for 90 minutes this weekend as their women’s football teams clashed in a regional tournament in Seoul, with the visitors scoring a decisive win and getting a warm welcome from home-team fans.

Just months after the North’s threats of nuclear war pushed the peninsula close to conflict, South Korean fans stood yesterday as the North’s national anthem echoed around Seoul’s World Cup stadium and even cheered when North Korea scored.

“This wouldn’t happen if it was against any other country, but strangely I wanted to cheer North Korea,” said Moon Sang-soon, a 49-year-old South Korean fan snacking on barbecued pork.

North Korea won the game 2-1.

The North Korean players have kept a low profile at the tournament compared with other teams, declining to use some of the stadium’s facilities during training.

They were escorted by South Korean security officials and North Korean fans who travelled from Japan also shied away from the media.

Despite their reluctance to mix off the pitch, the North Korean players made a point of waving at the South Korean fans before the game.

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