Gianni Infantino Hopes to Set North Korea vs. South Korea Friendly Soccer Match

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2016

FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Infantino arrived Wednesday to discuss issues related to the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup to be held in South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press

New FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to arrange an international friendly between the North Korea and South Korea national football teams.

The match would be used as a "way of easing tensions on the divided peninsula," according to Paul Vinnell of Sky Sports.

Infantino forwarded the idea during a recent visit to South Korea and stressed the unifying value football could have in the region. 

"We should bring everyone together around a football pitch...I'm ready to help and assist in whatever way is necessary," Infantino said.

That a single sporting event would really do much to promote harmony after decades of hostility is a dubious notion. Yet, if the match goes ahead, it will make history.

The two teams haven't met on the pitch in over a decade.
The two teams haven't met on the pitch in over a decade.ANTONY DICKSON/Getty Images

As Vinnell noted, the two nations haven't met on the pitch since a 2005 game in Southern capital Seoul. Before that, 15 years elapsed since games were played, with one occurring in the north's capital city, Pyongyang.

Each country's football history has been shrouded with some controversy.

South Korea produced a shock run in the 2002 FIFA World Cup under the tutelage of current Chelsea interim-manager Guus Hiddink. But the fairytale element of their progress was tarnished somewhat by accusations that referee decisions were made to favour them during a disputed win over Italy.

There was controversy during South Korea's World Cup progress in 2002.
There was controversy during South Korea's World Cup progress in 2002.JACQUES DEMARTHON/Getty Images

Then there's the story of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the North's then-leader Kim Jong-Il "hand-picked" fans to observe a game at the Ellis Park stadium, with many of the 300-strong group actually Chinese "volunteers," as reported by the Evening Standard'Shekhar Bhatia and Jack Lefley. 

Infantino may not be able to alter much, even if he manages to stage a game between the two nations. But world football's governing body would at least be trying to use its role in a positive way, following the corruption scandals that eventually led to the ousting of Sepp Blatter and Infantino's appointment.

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