It is hard to find out much about what is going on in the communist state of North Korea, but according to a football official from the country, children there are no different than many children around the world—they are in love with Lionel Messi.
Han Un Gyong, a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) executive committee, has invited Messi to the country's capital, where children "read books" about the Barcelona star.
North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un set up an international school with a sport academy in the capital, and Han said she would love for Messi to come and visit.
She is quoted by AFP (per the South China Morning Post):
I want to invite him, because our children love him. When I go to the Pyongyang international school, I ask them who do you think is the best player. They say: 'Ah, we love Messi!' Even the girls.
They read books about Messi and watch his games through the Internet. They can see all the games, China, Europe and everything at our Pyongyang International School. They can watch any football.
They love football, that’s why they know all the players’ names and everything.
Footballers regularly go to Asia for money-spinning promotional activities, but North Korea's political and ideological separation from the rest of the continent means it attracts very few high-profile visitors from the west.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman caused controversy when he visited Kim Jong Un earlier this year, with Rodman then claiming his influence with the supreme leader helped secure the release of American prisoner Kenneth Bae.