The Pyongyang International Football School, founded last year to train North Korea’s top football players, has just opened its doors to foreign tourists for the first time.
Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based independent travel company focusing on tourism to the DPRK, wrote on the company website that tourists in their June group were the first foreigners allowed to visit the school. The tourists were able to participate in a football match with the students. North Korean students playing football can be seen in photos and in a video clip on the webpage.
With approximately 200 boys and girls aged 10-14 years old, the Pyongyang International Football School functions as both a football academy and school with classrooms, lecture halls and dormitory rooms. All of their many football pitches are reported to be in very good condition and constructed with artificial turf.
Only select talented players from the school are sent abroad to receive professional training and the best players are given a state scholarship to be trained abroad. Cockerell spoke with the director of Pyongyang International Football School about those sent to train in Italy and Spain.
“…he told me they had high hopes that the skills that these 30+ young people that were currently training overseas would bring back would help immensely the development of the game in Pyongyang,” wrote Cockerell.
When the director was asked about his thoughts on the 2014 World Cup, he said that he respected the Italian, Spanish and even South Korean teams, although he personally hoped for Brazil to win.
The Yonhap News Agency also reported that North Korea is seeking to promote its tourism industry by expanding into certain areas suitable for foreign tourists.
The director expressed his desire for more tourist groups to visit the school in the future, suggesting that it would be beneficial for the students to engage in football matches with the tourists.
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