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Home » Archives » February 2005 » Japan Jittery about Soccer Match with North Korea

Japan Jittery about Soccer Match with North Korea

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 Posted: 10:51 AM JST

The Japanese national team meets the North Korean team today at Saitama Stadium in a World Cup qualifying match and authorities are decidedly jittery and worried. "Sports is a different world from politics, so we'd like people to watch the match calmly and enjoy the soccer," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said earlier this month. His comments alluded to the anger the Japanese feel toward North Korea over the abduction saga. Especially since scientific tests have shown that evidence handed over by Pyongyang was false.

Last year Chinese soccer supporters started riots when their nation's team met the Japanese. Authorities worry that this time the Japanese may be the culprits. Even Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi joined in the fray. "It's better not to mix sports and politics," he said, ignoring the fact that sports and politics have been mixed for as long as they exist.

Government officials have joined together with the police and the Japan Football Association to tighten security at the game. The JFA expects to post about 1,400 guards at the match. That is nearly double the number of security personal it normally employs.

About 5,000 seats are reserved for North Korean fans at the 60,000 capacity stadium. The JFA and the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) keep watch on these seats. To secure the North Korean area in the stadium some 1,000 seats flanking it are to be left empty.

Keywords: national_news political_news

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1 comments so far post your own

1 | At 01:18pm on Feb 11 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Well, the game came and went and all the worries of the Japanese authorities seemed once again totally unfounded and misplaced. Fans of both countries behaved exemplary, some even carrying placards saying that sports and politics should be separated. Nave perhaps, but a lot better than street riots.
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