Reuters

Soccer-Chinese 'volunteer army' to support N.Korea at World Cup

Fri, 14 May 11:55:00 2010

A group of Chinese soccer fans, dubbed the "fans volunteer army", have been given tickets for the World Cup finals by North Korea so they can support their neighbours in South Africa.

China has plenty of football fans but no team to support, while North Korea have qualified for the June 11-July 11 tournament but few of its fans can afford to go or would receive visas to leave the country.

The North Korean sports ministry liaison office in Beijing have therefore given 1,000 tickets to the "Chinese Star Football Team", a cheerleading group of famous actors, comedians and singers.

"For Chinese and even Asian fans, North Korea qualifying for the World Cup finals has special meaning," Wang Qi of ticketing agencyCSIG told the Xinhua news agency.

Relations between China and North Korea are close -- North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il visited last week -- and millions Chinese, technically volunteers, fought alongside their eastern neighbours in the Korean War of the 1950s.

The new "Chinese fans volunteer army" will leave for South Africa in June and cheer on the North Korea team, Wang said.

"The passion of the People's Volunteer Army of the 1950s still exists in our hearts, so we should support North Korea at the World Cup," wrote Qi Ge, a columnist at the Oriental Sports Daily.

"The revolutionary heroism and romanticism from that time are exactly what we Chinese fans need for a World Cup."

North Korea have been drawn with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast for their second appearance at the World Cup finals and it will be a huge surprise if they reproduce their 1966 run to the quarter-finals.

China qualified for the World Cup just once in 2002, returning home from South Korea and Japan in ignominy having failed to score a single goal in three defeats. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Liu Zhen, editing by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

 

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