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North’s soccer favorites come south for training

Mar 20,2007
North Korea’s under-17 soccer team will arrive on South Korea’s Jeju Island today for a 12-day training session, officials at the nation’s soccer governing body said yesterday.
The North Korean team is due to arrive at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport early in the morning, and then to fly to Jeju Island. They just concluded a training session in Kunming, China, officials from the Korea Football Association (KFA) said.
“Their training session here will focus on preparations for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, a world youth championship which South Korea is to host [from Aug. 18 to Sept. 9],” said a KFA official.
It is the first time for a North Korean sports team to come to South Korea since the North’s squad participated in an East Asian regional football competition held in three South Korean cities in August 2005.
During their stay on Jeju Island, the North Korean team is scheduled to play various friendly matches with several university and high school teams from March 24 to 27 before squaring off against the South Korean national under-17 football team on March 30.
The North Korean team will then move to Gwangju, some 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul in South Jeolla province, and Suwon, Gyeonggi province, for more practice before wrapping up their training in Seoul. The team consists of a staff of nine coaches, led by Ahn Ye-kun, and 23 players.
Officials said that Jeju invited the North Korean team in an effort to boost peace and sports relationships between the two Koreas, as well as to promote Jeju Island as an international meeting venue.
With its subtropical climate, Jeju Island is located south of the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean team became a favorite for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup after they won the Asia Football Confederation’s Youth Championship with a 5-3 penalty shootout victory over Japan last year.
A total of eight South Korean cities, including Busan, Cheonan, Jeju, Suwon, Ulsan, Goyang, Gwangyang and Seoul, will host the U-17 World Cup, in which 23 teams will participate.


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