FIFA keeping a close eye on Koreas

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:11 PM ET

As the tension between the two Koreas continue to boil, FIFA has reasons to be sweating bullets.

Nations who are at war, or under threat of war, cause issues for the organizers. With less than two weeks to go before the World Cup, it’s hard to imagine FIFA tossing North or South Korea from the tourney if their standoff leads to conflict.

But, when it comes to FIFA, nothing is for certain.

When asked if it would have to take action if the Korean situation deteriorates, FIFA was as defensive and elusive as PR flak for Kim Jong-Il.

“FIFA’s policy is not to speculate on events that may or may not happen, but rather to deal with factual matters where we can provide information based on actual events,” the organization media department wrote in an e-mail to QMI Agency.

Basically a fancy way of saying “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” It simply directed us to the World Cup rulebook, which doesn’t have a section on if your nation is at war or under threat of war.” Basically, the rules say that each competing nation much adhere to the FIFA Code of Ethics. That code states that no country’s national soccer association can be politically influenced by its government.

“In dealings with government institutions, national and international organizations, associations and groupings, officials shall... remain politically neutral, in accordance with the principles and objectives of FIFA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs, and generally act in a manner compatible with their function and integrity,” reads the rulebook.

But when it comes to war, history has shown us that soccer’s ruling officials have treated each national on a case-by-case basis.

In 2006, a ceasefire was declared in Ivory Coast’s civil war, as the national team qualified for the World Cup.

As well, the European Union tried to pressure FIFA in banning Iran from the 2006 World Cup over its controversial nuclear policy, which FIFA rejected. Iran obliged by only staying in Germany for three harmless matches.

UEFA chucked Yugoslavia out of Euro 1992 because of its civil war.

Denmark was asked to take the Yugoslavs’ spot — and ended up winning the tournament.

In 1986, Iraq qualified for the World Cup in Mexico, even though it was embroiled in its bitter war with Iran. To qualify, Iraq had to play all of its “home” games on neutral ground. But, despite the war, it was allowed to compete.

But there’s no doubt the presence of the North Koreans will have us thinking as much about politics as we will about the soccer being played when they take the field. The North Koreans take the field with a team of unknowns — only three members of the 23-man roster play club soccer outside of their homeland — so it only adds to the feel that this is a group of communistic everymen.

There’s only one star to speak of, Jong Tae-se plays his club soccer in Japan and scored twice in a recent friendly with Greece.

But their participation is crucial. Because goal difference is the tiebreaker in the World Cup, a spot in the round of 16 for either Brazil, Ivory Coast or Portugal could go to the team that enjoys the largest rout over North Korea.

South Korea? Well, after Argentina in Group B, it’s wide open on whether Nigeria, Greece or the South Koreans move on.

Only one saving grace; there’s almost zero chance that North and South could meet at the World Cup.


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