Jakarta: It is a scoreline so audacious even Kim Jong-il would have blushed.
North Korea’s women’s football team thrashed Tajikistan 16-0 at the Asian Games on Friday, a merciless demolition which saw three players score hat-tricks.
Unlike their former leader’s legendary first-ever round of golf — in which he claimed to hit 11 holes-in-one — the footballers’ achievement is recorded in the official record books of Asia’s regional Olympics.
North Korea’s women, whose win equalled the tournament record, have long been elite level international performers. Pyongyang has invested in sporting success in recent times, opening an elite football academy for young boys and girls five years ago in the capital, as well as a top-class ski resort.
But the women’s success has far outstripped their male counterparts, including three Asian Games gold medals, three Asian Cups and the last under-17 and under-20 World Cups.
Current leader Kim Jong-un appears to have taken particular interest in women’s football, reportedly visiting the team in training before the last Asian Games to offer “valuable instruction on how to win the gold medal”. They went on to win the tournament.
The following year he hugged returning members of the victorious East Asian Cup campaign at Pyongyang airport, praising their “guerrilla-style” tactics and “indefatigable mental prowess”, according to state news agency KCNA.
But things have not always been so straightforward for the North’s female footballers. They were banned from the 2015 Women’s World Cup after five players failed drugs tests at the previous edition in 2011.
The team doctor at the time blamed the test results on a “Chinese remedy” made from musk deer glands to treat players who had been struck by lightning.