SYDNEY: Brief stories from the Asian Cup on Wednesday:
Great Love from the Great Leader
North Korea’s side have been boosted by personal instruction from leader Kim Jong-Un as they seek an unlikely win at the Asian Cup. The Chollima (“Thousand Mile Horse”) are yet to improve on their showing from 1980, when they placed fourth. “The Great Leader was not able to visit the team before we left Pyongyang but he continues to give us valuable instruction,” said coach Jo Tong-Sop. “We are grateful to feel his great love, which gives us power, and hope to repay him by winning the tournament.” North Korea are being shown more love in the form of a 300-strong fan squad organised by a South Korean-born Sydney restaurateur, in the absence of travelling fans from the communist state.
Asian Cup ambassador Alessandro Del Piero has raised a few eyebrows after he was spotted at this week’s Ballon D’Or awards as the tournament proceeded in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Italian icon and former A-League favourite received a handsome fee for endorsing the tournament. Del Piero posted pictures of himself at the ceremony in Zurich, alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo. He does, however, have plenty of time to return to Australia as the Asian Cup does not finish until January 31.
Djeparov Down Under?
Two-time Asian player of the year Server Djeparov said he was open to a move to Australia’s A-League after his contract with Seongnam expired. The Uzbek playmaker said he was happy to stay in South Korea but added that he had heard good things about Australia from former club team-mate Brendan Hamill. “He spoke to me a lot of times (about) Australia how it’s here, football and life — I know everything,” Djeparov told reporters. “If they have offers for me, I can (look at) them.”