Italian television has been anxious to learn more about soccer star Han Kwang-song over his amazing displays since arriving in the country — only to be shown the red card by government leaders from his homeland North Korea.
The teenage soccer sensation has scored five goals in six Serie B league games this season and had been lined up to appear on RAI's "La Domenica Sportiva" program — only to lock himself in his hotel bedroom after receiving a telephone call from a government official in the North Korea's capital Pyongyang.
While Kim Jong-Un is firing missiles into the ocean, his countryman, Han Kwang-Song, is firing them into the back of the net. pic.twitter.com/DoUlJu9Ci7— J (@ZinedineZelaIem) September 22, 2017
Han who made history by becoming the first North Korean to score in Italy's top-flight league, Serie A, earlier this year, had traveled to Milan where the program is recorded on Sunday, September 24, when he received the call.
Massimiliano Santopadre, president of Perugia football club in Umbria, has now revealed the circumstances surrounding the 19-year-old's non-appearance.
"A call from a not very clear ministry figure arrived and it blocked everything," he said, after appearing on the show with an empty seat next to him.
"Negotiating, like on the transfer market, was impossible, also because Pyongyang want to talk only and exclusively with Han. The situation with their government has become even more rigid and their footballers have been prohibited from appearing on television, otherwise they would have repatriated him. Han is scared," the soccer boss added.
Santopadre told viewers that the player was "locked in his room — he's only 19 and didn't feel up to appearing [on TV]" without revealing the real reason for his absence until a few days later.
Ironically, the club had organized everything in advance to try and avoid any surprises, including traveling to Milan by car instead of plane or rail.
Han, as everybody calls him, had even preemptively read the questions that he was going to be asked in front of the television cameras — his move to Italy, playing for Perugia and Cagliari in Sardinia before that.
There was nothing compromising about politics or his life in the North Korean capital city before moving to Europe. Indeed, his leader Kim Jong-un appeared on television around the same time, announcing, "We will kill American fighters."
The teenager has enjoyed a meteoric rise in football, having helped his country win the Under 16 Asia Championship before appearing at the Under 17 World Cup where his goal-scoring skills quickly caught the eye of European soccer scouts.
He was invited by Cagliari in Sardinia where he impressed during his trial period and signed for their youth side only to be quickly promoted to the top team.
Despite playing against some of the world's leading soccer superstars, Han managed to score in his debut match. He has since moved to Perugia where his scoring feats have not gone unnoticed by many of Europe's elite clubs, with many predicting a big-money transfer may be in the offing.