Members of the North Korean women’s soccer team showed their professionalism and discipline on a visit to Chongqing this week for a series of friendly international matches, the Chongqing Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
Women’s soccer teams from New Zealand, Mexico and North Korea were invited to Chongqing by host team China for a series of international friendly matches, where translators noticed the North Korean soccer players sticking to strict workout routines and shunning frivolity.
The players are extremely quiet on the bus and during meals, where no one speaks,” a translator surnamed Li said. “At the hotel, they folded their laundry neatly in the bathroom – in fact, I didn’t realise the laundry was dirty because it was so neat. Over the few days I spent with the North Korean soccer players, my impression has been that they are highly disciplined.”
The North Korean women’s soccer team is famously well-drilled and has an illustrious record, having won three Asian Football Championships out of their last five attempts in 2001, 2003, and 2008.
A translator surnamed Li said that the soccer players were particularly respectful of coach Kim Kwang-min, who has been leading the team since 2005. Players were seen to wait until coach Kim got on the bus before boarding and after team meetings, they waited for the coach to exit the room before leaving themselves.
After a match on Wednesday morning, the team went out to explore and shop, but returned to their the hotel after only 20 minutes.
“Coach Kim was the only one who purchased something. He spent 140 yuan on buying a space heater,” Li reportedly told the newspaper. “The girls were really into fashion, but no one bought anything. One player saw a piece of clothing she liked, but after I translated the price, she put it down”
According to Li, the only person who owns a mobile phone is the team translator, and even that was a gift from a Chinese company. The entire team, including the coach, came to China without a laptop.
“Lee Gwang-chul [the team translator] used my computer. He doesn’t have an e-mail address, so he used my e-mail to communicate with Pyongyang,” Li said.
When asked about the secret behind North Korean excellence in soccer, Oh Gil-nam, a senior official from the North Korean Football Association said “We don’t really have a secret, we just practice a lot. Women’s soccer in China used to be good, but now they don’t do enough practice.”
North Korea beat Mexico 2-0 on Tuesday and is set to play New Zealand on Thursday and China on Saturday.