KOCHI: “Did the supreme leader wish you before you started for India?” When scribes who attended the pre-match media session of North Korea posted this question to coach Kim Yong-Su and captain Yun Min, there was silence for a second.
Then the translator said in a husky voice, “No comments”. Curtains came down on the presser very soon. Questions on Kim Jong-un was a strict no-no. With the sort of reclusiveness the North Korean players wear on their sleeves, it was a given that the press conference would just be a formality.
When all other participants were happily announcing their pre-competition training schedule, there wasn’t any news from North Korea. Naturally, the first question the coach faced was on their preparations.
“We didn’t play any international friendlies. But we played with a couple of clubs back home. Seven matches we played,” said the coach. For the record, India played 84. Ever since they reached Kochi, North Korea have been the one team that remained aloof. The team management was regularly confronted by the sight of media personnel during 20 minutes of their training session and the players remained cut off from everything happenings around them.
“They remain to themselves. They seldom interact with the volunteers and other support staff. For them, it seems to be their second nature,” said a security staff in charge of the team. One of the volunteers, who accompanies the team, find them to be ‘very punctual’.
“They never delay their engagements. Even if it’s about entering the team bus or going to the ground, they are always on time,” he said.
Appearing for the fifth time in the event, North Korea will play their first match against Niger on Saturday. Asked whether they are too eager to earn full points considering the fact that their next fixtures are against Spain and Brazil, coach Yun said, “The first match is very important, but we are not bothered about the next matches or results.”
Yun Min, who idolizes Lionel Messi, counted striker Kim Hwi-hwang and midfielder Kye Tam as his trump cards. Will they deliver? Time will tell.