North Korea's most passionate fan is from Portsmouth

Brian Phillips

Bryan Clark is a 58-year-old logistics-company manager from Portsmouth, England. He also is, for reasons that do not entirely come clear in the Guardian's or the AFP's recent profiles on him, one of the world's most devoted North Korea fans. He travels around the world going to their matches, toting a specially designed North Korean flag emblazoned with the word "Portsmouth." You could get sent to a pretty bad camp in North Korea for writing "Portsmouth" on the flag, but then, you could also get sent to a pretty bad camp for traveling to one of the national team's football matches. So it all works out in the end. From the AFP story:

Over the last four years, the 58-year-old Clark has travelled around the globe to watch North Korea play their World Cup qualifiers — even taking in games in Pyongyang during a organised tour.

"I was present when the Chollimas qualified for the World Cup following their draw with Saudi Arabia in Riyadh," said Clark, who is British.

"I was the only North Korean fan in the ground and was surrounded by 65,000 Saudi supporters as I waved my DPRK flag and cheered."

Is he supporting them for political reasons? Does he just love an underdog? No one bothers to ask. He does tell the Guardian, though, that he's attracted to the "challenge" of supporting the world's most hard-to-support team:

I think it's partly because being a fan of North Korea is so difficult that I want to do it so much. The challenge is something I enjoy — even if it means travelling to a country with a reputation like North Korea's.

So North Korea is the Everest of football fandom. You support them because they're there.

In any case, Clark won't be the only North Korea fan in the stadium when the Chollimas take on Brazil on Tuesday. There are Facebook groups designed for their supporters (appropriately, when clicking the Discussions tab, you see "There are no discussions") and plans to muster a cheering section in South Africa. None of the fans will be North Korean, of course, but then applause sounds the same regardless of nationality, or language, or sanity.

Image: Bryan Clark/Solent News via The Guardian

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