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Pyongyang: A capacity 42,500 fans filled the Kim Il Sung Stadium, in Pyongyang on Friday for the historic 1-1 draw between DPR Korea and Korea Republic in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 Group B qualifier.

While matches between the two neighbouring countries tend to generate world-wide interest, this was the first time in history the two women sides played in DPR Korea. Adding to the mix, the Group B tie was made even more significant with a coveted place among Asia’s elite in the Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 on the line.

“There was no way I was going to miss this match. For us here in DPR Korea, this was one of the biggest matches in our history,” said 72-year-old, Kim-ho, a lifelong DPR Korea fan.

“I have three great memories of DPR Korea football. The first was the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the other was the 2010 FIFA World Cup when our men’s team qualified, and the last was when our women’s team beat Korea Republic in the East Asian Games in 2013. Tonight may not be a World Cup, it is just a qualifier for the Asian Cup, but I have another great memory right here in Pyongyang.”

The Local Organising Committee (LOC), formed largely by DPR Korea Football Association administrators, government officials, local specialists and volunteers, were pleased with the organisation of the high-profile match. Yu Yong-mok, Local General Coordinator for the Group B qualifiers attributed the LOC’s success to the close integration of efforts between the various standing committees, which include security, match operations and spectator management.

“We wanted to host the qualifiers for two reasons. Firstly, the people in our country love their football so these qualifiers give them an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of national team. Secondly, we want to continue to develop football in our country and the qualifiers help to strengthen our national team.

“Working together, I believe that we can be proud with how we have managed the qualifiers so far, but as in all things, I believe we will keep improving as the competition continues.” 

With the just the solitary spot guaranteeing qualification, the media frenzy was also evident in the Korea Republic, with nearly a dozen media representatives flying across the border to report on the match.

“It has been 27 years since DPR Korea and Korea Republic last played here but back then it was more of friendly match between the men’s team. It is possible that this was the first international or official match between the two countries, said Jeon Hyeonjin, a reporter from Korea Republic news agency Munhwa Ilbo, who travelled to Pyongyang with a photographer.

“Back home in Korea Republic, there is also an ice-hockey women’s match taking place against DPR Korea so it is fitting that this match is taking place here.”

There is little doubt the rivalry between the two sides added to the sheer quality and intensity over the 90 minutes, but there was also an immense sense of respect shared between the two teams as they exchanged pleasantries and handshakes shortly after the final whistle.

Although the fixture ended in a stalemate, the historic encounter will forever be remembered as the night when the world was spellbound by the women’s game in Asia, made possible by the ever-improving platform the AFC’s competitions presents to prepare the continent’s best to grace the biggest stages.  

Photo: DPR Korea Football Association