Every June, Young Pioneer Tours holds a Sporting Interest Tour to combine two of the greatest things this world has to offer – Sports, and a trip to the DPRK.
In the spirit of all things World Cup, Young Pioneer Tours, last June took a group of eight people to Pyongyang to play a friendly game of football against local Koreans.
We played the match on Friday morning and although Messi was replaced by Kim, and Pak took the place of Neymar, enough skill and excitement was created to keep the spectators enthralled. Whilst the DPRK team was made up entirely of Koreans (including the former goalkeeper for the DPRK national team), the international team consisted of players from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Hong Kong, France and DPRK.
Although the main purpose of the trip was this football match, it was by no means the only highlight. In addition to this match which is explained in detail below, we also watched a cup game at Kim Il Sung Stadium between Wilmido and Sonbong, fired live rounds at the Meari Shooting Range, drank with Pyongyangites at the Gyonghung Beer Bar, rode roller coasters at the amusement park, and swam with locals at Munsu Water Park. As action-packed as this sounds we also visited all of the major sites in and around Pyongyang and took a trip down to the DMZ to view the most heavily fortified border in the world and have pictures taken with soldiers from the Korean People’s Army.
“Having arrived in Pyongyang four days before the actual match, our team was certainly not in prime physical condition for the game. Anyone who has traveled with YPT knows that we like an evening drink or two, something that doesn’t really go hand in hand with excelling at sports.”
The game started off rather bad for us, much to the joy of the Korean onlookers. After about ten minutes we were two-nil down. Perhaps due to the jests from the other team that we should’ve gone easy on the soju the previous night, the YPT team rallied back to bring it to two-two. Everyone likes a good comeback so even those on the sidelines applauded our determination. Invigorated by our new fan club, the international team through sublime passing and skill, went on to take the lead. Half time was fast approaching and our team was confident of entering the break with at least a one goal margin. This confidence manifested itself as laziness and after two quick goals from the DPRK team we entered half time trailing by a goal.
“During the half time talk, we rued our soju infused bowling escapades the night before but realizing that now was not the time for self-pity, we rallied and planned new tactics.”
Confident of regaining our short lived lead, we emerged to the pitch full of hope. This hope turned out to be as fleeting as our one goal advantage and we quickly we found ourselves five – two down. Changes were made and again the pendulum of fortune swung in our favor as we quickly pulled the game back to five – five. Our fan club which appeared to disband at five – two down had by now firmly re-established itself. Alas their support, perfidious as it was, was not enough to allow us to go onto win the game. After a few near-misses and wayward passes from our side, the DPRK team capitalized and managed to squeeze in a further two goals to end the game seven – five.
After some post match handshakes and photographs, we told them to take good care of the trophy as we would be back to reclaim it in 2015!