SEOUL (Reuters) - FIFA have moved next month’s World Cup qualifier between the two Koreas to Shanghai because the North had refused to play the anthem or fly the flag of its Cold War rival, South Korean football officials said on Thursday.
Experts have said North Korea will not allow patriotic displays from the South because they could undermine the messages from the communist state’s propaganda machine.
The website of soccer’s world governing body (www.fifa.com) has listed the venue of the September 10 match as Shanghai in China and not in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, where it was originally scheduled.
An earlier qualifying tie between the two Koreas, technically still at war, originally set for Pyongyang in March was moved to Shanghai for the same reasons.
The teams played out a scoreless draw.
In the return match, South Korea allowed for the display of the North’s flag and then played its anthem when it hosted the North in Seoul. The match also finished 0-0 and both teams advanced to the next qualifying round.
“North Korea has apparently given up its home-field advantage,” said an official with the South Korean Football Association.
The two Koreas, who have yet to sign a peace treaty to officially end their 1950-53 war, state in their respective constitutions that the government on their side of the heavily armed border is the rightful one for the entire peninsula.
“The two associations have been discussing this for a long time,” FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told reporters in Beijing. “They have decided to play on a neutral ground.”
“It is not us, it is the two national associations who have decided.”
Tensions have flared between the two Koreas after a new South Korean president took office in February and angered Pyongyang by saying what once had been a free flow of aid would now be tied to progress the North makes in getting rid of its nuclear weapons.
The two Koreas did not march together at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics as they have done in several recent Games.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Kim Junghyun, additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Beijing; Editing by John O'Brien