Fifa writes to North Korea about player punishments
FIFA, world football's governing body, has begun an investigation into allegations that the communist regime in North Korea punished the coach and players of the country's team after their dismal performance in the World Cup.
Last month, Radio Free Asia said that all members of the North Korean squad, apart from two foreign-based players, were subjected to "harsh ideological criticism" after they lost all three matches and conceded the highest number of goals by a team at the competition.
Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said: "We sent a letter to the football federation to tell us about their election of a new president and to find out if the allegations made by the media that the coach and some players were punished are true. We are doing this as a first step and we will see how they answer."
North Korea started their World Cup with a 2-1 defeat by Brazil, then lost 7-0 to Portugal and 3-0 to Ivory Coast. Mr Blatter said the investigation was launched after Chung Mong-joon, a member of the Fifa executive committee from South Korea, raised concerns over reports of the team's mistreatment by Kim Jong-il's regime.
Aidan Foster-Carter, an expert on North Korea at Leeds University, said while it was impossible to confirm reports that some of the players had been imprisoned, the allegations were believable.
"Given the past of the North Korean government it is entirely plausible that these stories are true, although the players playing in Japan and Europe, like striker Jong Tae-se, have denied them, but they probably would anyway." (©Daily Telegraph, London)