North Korea currently sits in 126th place in the FIFA rankings, sandwiched between Armenia and Ethiopia. The North Koreans have no major titles to their name and have only qualified for the World Cup once in the last 50 years – when they were the worst-performing team at the 2010 tournament.
Despite this lack of pedigree, the Democratic People’s Republic will be making a huge impact on the beautiful game in the coming years, if supreme leader Kim Jong-Un has anything to do with it.
According to Spanish newspaper Marca, the Dear leader has made soccer a “strategic priority” and put plans in place to produce a batch of global superstars who will be even better than his hair twin Lionel Messi.
“We train our youngsters to become more talented players than even Lionel Messi,” said Yu He, coach of the International School of Pyongyang Football.
He told reporters: “For now, we are aiming to dominate Asia and in the near future, I hope we can dominate the world.”
World domination does seem like a fairly lofty ambition, but not everyone involved in North Korean soccer believes the country will soon be producing players who can run circles around Barcelona superstars. National team coach Jorn Anderson has weighed in with a slightly more realistic outlook, according to ESPN FC.
“No, I don’t think [North Korea] can make a Lionel Messi, but I think they can make good players for Asia.
“There are many talented players but they always have to stay inside the country. They can’t go out. When they are always playing inside [North Korea], it’s difficult to create better players.”
North Korea has already invested huge sums into new soccer facilities, although a $1.66 million grant from FIFA had to be withdrawn last year due to its failure to comply with international nuclear weapons sanctions.