North Korea’s Zimbabwe warm-up match called off after protests

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

HARARE - The North Korea football team’s controversial planned pre-World Cup warm-up session in Zimbabwe here has been called off following threats of protests in the African country, government sources said.

The North Korean squad had been due to arrive here Tuesday to train and play friendlies against local teams before moving onto South Africa, where the World Cup kicks off on June 11.

But a senior source in the power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and former opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said the visit was called off after it provoked outrage among supporters of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

North Korean army instructors in 1983 trained the newly-formed Zimbabwean army brigade that went on to slaughter thousands of civilians during a small insurgency in the western provinces of Matabeleland.

Reports put the numbers killed in the operation, which wound up in 1987 after the opposition entered a union with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, at between 8,000 and 20,000 civilians.

Most of the victims were members of the Ndebele-speaking minority.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembe, a Mugabe appointee, invited North Korea to warm up in Zimbabwe, in an attempt to showcase the tourist potential of the economically depressed country to World Cup viewers and visitors.

The team had initially been due to stay in Bulawayo, capital of Matabeleland.

Zimbabwe’s government later switched the base to the capital Harare after activists in Bulawayo threatened to disrupt training sessions and games.

At the weekend, a senior government source from Tsvangirai’s party told the German Press Agency dpa the visit had since been cancelled after Mzembi came under pressure from the MDC to disinvite the Koreans.

Minister of Sports David Coltart, who comes from the south and belongs to a splinter MDC faction also said: “I do not think they are still coming to Zimbabwe for camping. I have no clue as why they are no longer coming.”

Mzembi would not confirm or deny the reports, telling dpa: “I cannot say they are no longer coming at this stage. We are still talking. We have a few things to clarify.”

Filed under: Football

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