Kicking Against DPRK

I don’t have much time for the totalitarian/militaristic/nationalistic stylings of the North Korean regime. Most on the left share my distaste, although, like the pornography industry, there’s a niche group to cater for every perversion.

Nonetheless, the lazy, reflexive, shibboleth-laden coverage given to the participation of the DPRK football team at the forthcoming World Cup is getting on my Eklands. When combined with the slavish, philistine gushing over Brazilian football which is so typical of the British sporting press, the annoyance dial cranks up to CRITICAL. Behold:

The images projected by the two nations are similarly far apart.

Brazil is synonymous with an unfettered joy of expression, illustrated perhaps most vividly down the years by its football team.

Think of North Korea, however, and thoughts instinctively turn to a political regime, whose military spending and belligerent foreign policy earned them a place alongside Iraq and Iran in former United States president George W Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’.

Well, not really. There was a time, in living memory, when to freely express oneself in Brazil meant to end up very much fettered, if not very much dead. Secondly, everyone knows that the only reason North Korea made Bush’s Most Wanted list was to disguise the religious crusading nature of the War on Terror.

These perfunctory slanders will be familiar to anyone whose memory extends to the late 1980s, and the heyday of Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo Kiev/USSR teams (they were effectively one and the same.) Lobanovskyi’s teams played a pulsating, swift counter-attacking style of football in which every member of the side was a potential playmaker. In many ways, it was a precursor to the tikki-takki house style for which Barcelona and Spain are lauded today, although played at a faster pace and more exhilarating to watch.

Of course, that wasn’t how the Western press saw it. Instead, they wrote of automatons, who knew what to do with the ball before they received it, doubtless as a result of harsh, repetitive, military-style training (as opposed to having their intelligence and technique honed by the scientific coaching methods of Lobanovskyi.) It was somewhat of a blow to this thesis when Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo Kiev and Romantsev’s Spartak Moscow sides retained and refined this style long into the capitalist age.

So, for all that the constant evocations of the Dear Leader by the coaching staff irk me, and the archaic 5-3-2 system offers little hope, I hope North Korea do well at the World Cup. It will offer the beleaguered people of that nation some little solace (and yes, they will see and/or find out about the results) and piss off a lot of people I don’t like.

If nothing else, it might put a stop to stuff like this:

Their domestic media were described as “so suppressed they are non-existent” by campaign group Reporters Without Borders and the few interviews that have appeared from inside the squad have been full of cliches.

Take a moment to savour the rich, delectable irony of that last bit, bearing in mind that it comes from the BBC’s dumbed-down-to-death football department. If North Korea’s players deal in clichés because they come from a totalitarian dictatorship, what’s the England squad’s excuse? Maybe Juche is the state ideology of Soho Square. It might explain how Eriksson kept his job for so long…

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