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Two Koreas’ World Cup qualifier coming to Shanghai

koreavkorea.jpgLike all football connoisseurs, Shanghaiist loves nothing better than a good derby. Games like Feyenoord v Ajax where travelling supporters are banned. The sheer evil of Rangers v Celtic. The Latin heat of Real Madrid v Athletic Madrid. The Manchester United v Liverpool grudge match. The Superclásico of Boca Juniors v River Plate. And Shanghai Shenhua v Inter Shanghai lacked the history but not passion before one half upped sticks and moved to Xi’an.

But what could be more intense than seeing two countries technically still at war take each other on in a competitive match? Looks like we will get the chance to do just that as North and South Korea have agreed to play to play their vital World Cup Qualification match in Shanghai on March 26, after North Korea refused to allow South Korea to fly their own flag and play their own national anthem in Pyongyang. According to FIFA rules, flags of both sides must be flown and played at all games played under its auspices.

However, Kim Jong-il couldn’t resist meddling yet again and insisted on an old traditional folk song being played and a neutral flag being flown, the sight of a separate South Korean flag and anthem too much for his propaganda machine to swallow. South Korea are happy to play in Shanghai – preparations must continue regardless of location, their coach says.

The match promises to be a fascinating spectacle assuming it is not played behind closed doors – which games held in neutral venues for political reason often are. Shanghai’s sizeable Korean population will certainly be hoping it is not. The two Korea’s are drawn in a group with Turkmenistan and Jordan and only the top two progress to the next qualifying stage so its everything to play for. The pair played out a draw last month, in Chongqing, at the East Asian Football Championship, but that is a minor contest compared to World Cup qualification.

No word yet on the venue for the match – Hongkou Football Stadium seems most likely.

This post was originally published on Shanghaiist.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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