16:38 GMT +321 November 2019
Listen Live
    Atletico de Sorocaba team next to the statue of Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2009

    The Unique Adventures of a Brazilian Football Team in North Korea

    © Photo : Waldir Cipriani / Personal archive
    Get short URL

    Not many people are aware of the fact that a humble football team from Sorocaba city in the state San Paulo are the only Brazilian team to have ever played football in the remote and closed North Korea. Sputnik Brasil has learnt the details of this historic meeting.

    In 2009-2015, the Atlético de Sorocaba football club played four games in Pyongyang as part of a cultural exchange program.

    Back in 2001, the club was playing in the third division of the state championship. However in 2003, due to considerable investments by Sun Myung Moon, an immigrant from North Korea, it was able to enter into the first division. The investor, known in Brazil as Reverend Moon (Reverendo Moon) maintained a very good relationship with Kim Il Sun, the grandfather of North Korea’s present leader.

    Hence, in 2009, he came up with an idea to hold a friendly match in North Korea after the country won the right to play at the World Championship in the South African Republic in 2010. In the same year Reverend Moon organized the first match as part of the "peace mission between peoples."

    Atletico de Sorocaba and North Korean team pose for photo at Pyongyang Stadium in 2009
    © Photo : Waldir Cipriani/Personal archive
    Atletico de Sorocaba and North Korean team pose for photo at Pyongyang Stadium in 2009

    Waldir Cipriani, the president of Atlético de Sorocaba in 2009, recalled his trip to Pyongyang.

    "Our delegation left Brazil in November of 2009. We arrived first to Beijing, where we got visas for a five-day trip to Pyongyang. It was our good fortune that then Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva opened a Brazilian embassy in North Korea. And all the diplomatic corps came to meet us at the airport as if we were the Brazilian national team. The next day we were training at the stadium in Pyongyang," he told Sputnik.

    According to the sporting official, the team, which was not used to such a welcome, was very much surprised to see 80,000 fans at the stadium and a 30,000-people crowd around the training facility.

    They won the match 2:1, however what he specifically recalled, were the names of the teams on the tableau – North Korea and BRA – as if it was the game between national teams. The Brazilian football players, he said, played in the yellow colors of the national team.

    They came again to Pyongyang in 2010, however losing 0:1 on that occasion.

    The players were free to walk around the city, Waldir Cipriani recounted, and were never inconvenienced by the North Korean authorities, who are often strongly criticized in the mass media. They were able to take pictures with people in the streets and got a very warm welcome.

    Nor had they any problems with food there, although they brought certain products with them from Beijing. The players were able to buy food in supermarkets at the embassy, however, Waldir Cipriani recalled that he did not notice any food shortages.

    Atlético de Sorocaba quit professional football in 2016. After the death of Reverend Moon in 2012, the financial shape of the club worsened and it was forced to leave the state’s football federation. Ironically, its training facilities are now being used by its major opponent, São Bento, a team managed by Paulo Roberto, a player who was involved in the 2009 Atlético de Sorocaba match in North Korea, Waldir Cipriani concluded.

    football match, Waldir Cipriani, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Pyongyang, Brazil
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik