Lucky to return without injury – Spurs star Son Heung-min says after World Cup Qualifiers trip to North Korea

Son Korea

Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min has shared the harrowing experience the South Korean players went through during their trip to face North Korea in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. 

The match which took place at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang had FIFA president Gianni Infantino watching on, but no fans in attendance as DPR Korea and Korea Republic played out a goalless draw on Tuesday.

South Korea had last travelled to North Korea in 1990 for a friendly match, but it was the first time the two nations were facing each other in a competitive fixture. However, the historic match was neither broadcasted live nor the South Korean media and supporters were allowed into the country.

Now, Spurs star Son has revealed that the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round tie between the two Koreas was an extremely physical affair with several stoppages.

“It’s too bad that we didn’t win, but the match was very aggressive to a degree that I think it’s a huge achievement just to return safely without being injured,” Son was quoted as saying by AFP on his return to South Korea.

“North Korean players were sensitive and aggressive … There was a lot of severe swearing (from them),” the attacker said.

Asked about playing in front of an empty stadium, Son said: “It rather made me think that (the North Koreans) thought us as a strong team.”

While Korea Republic head coach Paulo Bento said the tie was “not a good match” and that it “halted too frequently,” Korea Football Association vice-president Choi Young-il said that “it was like war” and that he had “never seen such (aggression) in football until now.”

“I was looking forward to seeing a full stadium for such a historic match but was disappointed to see there were no fans in the stands,” FIFA president Infantino said in an interview on the FIFA website.

“We were surprised by this and by several issues related to its live broadcast and problems with visas and access for foreign journalists,” he added.