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Korean Minefield

Recently, a game between North Korea and Finland became a political - yep - football.

During the FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup in Canada, fans of Korean unification turned out to support the DPRK, aka North Korea, and to show their unbiased approach to the coming together of the two Koreas,  separated after the Korean War 60 years ago.

This was intended to make a non-violent statement, using the peaceful focal point of football as the vehicle.

All well and good you might say. Not for FIFA.

As you can read here in this eyewitness account, a FIFA official moved in and shut the support down.  The official cited FIFA regulations which require there to be no political statements in a FIFA sanctioned game.

This looks to be a can of worms, allowing hypocritical applications of the rule to suit common or accepted prejudices.

For instance, women are not permitted to attend many games in the Middle East (I recall a Socceroos World Cup qualifier some time ago in Iran where this was the case). Or, what about cases of fans chanting racist or otherwise offensive chants or holding Nazi flags or bearing violent tattoos say? Are these not political statements?

According to the report linked here, FIFA, through its official, argued that both South and North Korea are recognised internationally as distinct, sovereign states. As such, calling for their unification is characterised as a political act deemed outside the rules.

While this appears a double standard, suggested by the examples I have noted above, its also undermines the very value of football to reach apolitical solutions to apparently political problems.

If the North Korea v Finland game became a means by which Koreans from both sides of the border can somehow unite - and let's not forget that families have been split by the separation of the Korea Peninsula - then isn't that a win for all concerned, at a level that supercedes mere politics? Isn't that then a possible thread that may be woven into something even firmer over time?

Sure, when "fans" at football games use the moment to make violent, prejudicial or otherwise untenable political or semi-political points, then this should be stopped. But, should people seek to use football to generate reconciliation and trust in a non-violent way, then surely this should be not only allowed, but encouraged.


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