The fearsome North Korean women’s soccer team lost to the U.S. 0-2 on Tuesday, July 28 in the Women’s World Cup tournament. North Korea is the number 8 seed in the rankings, and they are notoriously tough, disciplined, and skilled. The fact that the U.S. won is enough for exclamation by many, but in this case, North Korea’s reasons for why they lost are just as interesting.
According to their coach, Kwang Min Kim, several of the North Korean players were struck by lightning prior to leaving North Korea to play in the World Cup Event.
“When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalized,” Coach Kim commented after the match.
“Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament,” he continued.
“But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don’t want to think about anything but football.
“The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will.”
This is the first time any team has claimed such a reason for poor performance on the field. The North Korean team played well during the first half, keeping the U.S. women on the run and deflecting goal attempts nimbly. Then, starter Lauren Cheney scored the first goal at the 54-minute mark; defensive player Rachel Buehler kicked the second goal at the 76-minute mark.
North Korea’s women’s soccer team is, like the reclusive country’s other sports teams, very disciplined and skilled. They are, however, virtually unknown, except for the names, ages, and statistics. They never give interviews, their public appearances are often cancelled at the last moment, and their practice sessions are attended by armed guards who deflect the media. The team is very young, with a median age of 20, making them the youngest team at the Cup.
It can’t be known for sure whether Coach Kim’s assertions about lightning strikes are true, as Pyongyang is notoriously close-mouthed; it is also suspect that he neglected to mention the incident until after the team had lost, and it doesn’t explain the team’s strong first-half play.