SEOUL: South Korean footballers were left dumbfounded at an international tournament in Indonesia when organisers played the North’s anthem instead.
Ahead of an AFC under-19 Championship qualifier against Jordan at the Patriot Candrabhaga Stadium in Bekasi, the South’s team lined up with their hands on their hearts.
But instead of Seoul’s hymn-like anthem “Aegukga”, North Korea’s national tune blared out, leaving them stony-faced and silent.
The South’s coaching staff told officials of the mistake, and while the right song was then played, they protested after the game on Monday evening.
Seoul’s football authorities said Tuesday they will file a formal complaint with the Asian Football Confederation.
“This is the first time that the North Korean anthem was played instead of Aegukga at any official international match for any level of the national football team,” the Korea Football Association said in a statement.
The mistake comes as a rapid diplomatic thaw takes hold on the peninsula, led by South Korea’s dovish President Moon Jae-in who has met with the North’s Kim Jong Un three times this year.
North and South Korea formed unified teams for some events at the Asian Games two months ago, also hosted by Indonesia, and reached the women’s basketball final, only to fall at the final hurdle to China.
But the democratic South remains technically at war with the communist North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
It is not the first time sports organisers have been stumped by Korean politics.
At the 2012 Olympics, North Korea’s women footballers walked off the pitch ahead of a group match in Glasgow when they were introduced next to images of the South Korean flag. — AFP