North Korea gives China 1,000 World Cup tickets
Few North Koreans will be able to cheer their team at the World Cup in South Africa. So the country is recruiting 1,000 Chinese fans.
The Beijing office of the North Korean Sports Committee is giving out tickets to the tournament, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The Chinese fans will attend North Korea's games against Brazil and Portugal, Xinhua said.
This is just the second time North Korea has qualified for the World Cup. It shocked the world with its first appearance in 1966 when it beat Italy and reached the quarter-finals.
The Chinese fans who will support North Korea this time include celebrities who have led similar groups to cheer for Chinese teams in the past.
The Beijing office of the North Korean Sports Committee could not be reached on Friday.
North Korea is the great unknown in the World Cup. News in the communist regime is strictly controlled. Broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang reported that the national team received a festive send-off on Saturday, with residents waving North Korean flags outside the airport as the players arrived. Footage showed women waving flowers as the team boarded the plane. Coach Kim Jong Hun promised "a great success."
China is North Korea's chief benefactor and it apparently respected the wishes of the country's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il last week when it refused to confirm his secretive visit to Beijing until he had left.
Chinese support for North Korean sports teams is not new. A China-based sports apparel maker, Erke, sponsored all of North Korea's teams in the Beijing Olympics two years ago and now sponsors the country's soccer team.