North Korea 'to rise again'
Nazvi Careem in Kuala Lumpur
Asian football chiefs are confident North Korea will continue their rise as a regional power despite barring them from the 2007 Asian Cup.
North Korea's football association was late in submitting its application for the 2007 Asian Cup qualifiers, forcing the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) executive committee to exclude them from the competition, which starts in February.
It was the second blow for the Koreans this year. In June, Fifa forced North Korea to play a home World Cup qualifier against Japan in neutral Bangkok, Thailand, because of crowd unrest in Pyongyang after a 2-0 defeat to Iran.
'Not participating in any major competition is a blow to any National Association and this definitely applies to North Korea,' Carlo Nohra, the AFC's competitions director, said.
North Korea are currently enjoying a resurgence on the field, reviving memories of the 1966 team who reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in England.
Their senior team performed well in reaching the final stages of the Asian World Cup qualifiers while their youngsters last month reached the quarter-finals of theUnder-17 World Championships in Peru, where striker Choe Myong-ho was chosen as one of the Fifa Stars of the Future.
'It's very unfortunate that they are not participating,' said Nohra. 'After the last World Cup, we were expecting them to grow but we were fearful that Fifa would send them back [by punishing them for crowd trouble]. But they have responded well.'