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S. Korean footballers get special feeling after singing nat'l anthem in Pyongyang

All Headlines 23:02 April 05, 2017

PYONGYANG, April 5 (Joints Press Corps) -- The South Korean women's national football team players said Wednesday they had a "special feeling" when they sang the national anthem on North Korean soil before playing a qualifying match for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competition.

South Korea opened the AFC Women's Asian Cup Group B qualifying tournament with a 10-0 victory over India at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang. Before the match kickoff, the South Korean anthem was played at the stadium following the AFC rule. It was the first time that a South Korean anthem was heard in Pyongyang since September 2013 when the athletes from Seoul competed in the North Korean capital in a weightlifting competition.

"I was deeply moved when we sang the national anthem in Pyongyang," said forward Lee Geum-min who scored a hat trick against India. "But I also felt somewhat sad."

The South Korean flag is displayed at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang on April 5, 2017, before the women's national football team play against India in a 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifying match. (Joint Press Corps)

Midfielder Lee Min-a, who also put her name on the score sheet against India, said it was a special moment to sing the national anthem in North Korea. At the stadium, some 5,000 North Korean fans were present and they all stood up when the South Korean anthem started playing. The South Korean flag was also raised at Kim Il-sung Stadium for the first time.

"Before the match, we said to each other that we need to sing the national anthem louder than usual," she said. "Singing the national anthem is always special when you're representing the country, but today, it was really special."

South Korea's next match is against North Korea on Friday. The winner of this much-anticipated all-Korean showdown is expected to clinch the top spot in the group considering that neither the South nor the North are likely to lose to their low-ranked competitors.

North Korea are ranked No. 10 in the latest FIFA rankings, followed by South Korea (No. 17), Uzbekistan (No. 42), India (No. 56) and Hong Kong (No. 65).

Only the group winner will advance to the 2018 Asian Cup in Jordan, which also doubles as the qualifying tournament for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.

After collecting a big win over India, the players said they are confident in showing a good performance against North Korea as well, even though the national team has won only once in the last 17 meetings.

"We planned to eat 'Pyongyang Naengmyeon' (cold buckwheat noodles) if we beat North Korea," Lee Min-a said. "We will eat that food here."

South Korean captain Ji So-yun, who scored twice against India, said she is satisfied that the team made a good start. The forward, who plays with English club Chelsea Ladies FC, is the all-time leading scorer for the womens' national team with 43 goals.

"The match against North Korea is not going to be easy, but we have to get rid of the pressure and enjoy playing football," she said.

South Korean women's national football team players enter Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang on April 5, 2017 to play a 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifying match against India. (Joint Press Corps)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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