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Time for a Korea change, Gerrard?

I was delighted today, to see Steven Gerrard’s face emblazoned across the front page of the Guardian’s sports section, under the headline; “I’d boo as well”. I thought maybe it was some sort of pledge you just scribbled your name under, but it turned out there was an entire article to follow.

 Speaking ahead of tonight’s “friendly” match against Hungary, the England captain gorges on humble pie, as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet, and attempts to pre-empt fans’ abuse by lamenting the team’s miserable performance in the summer’s World Cup, saying, “If I were a fan”, which apparently he isn’t, “I’d probably boo too, we deserve it.” How gracious, how humbling.  

There’s more. He throws himself on his sword, as the paragraphs proceed, insisting that the blame should not be placed solely at Fabio Capello’s door. He leaves this profound and haunting question hanging in the air; “Who is there out there that is better than Capello?” I will assume for now, that this challenge was intended to be rhetorical, due to space constraints. 

But if your heart goes out to the England line-up tonight, as they pound on to the pitch to a deafening chorus of booing usually reserved for pantomime villains, then perhaps save a portion of your sympathy for the North Korean team. 

Also in the Guardian’s sports pages, is a story about FIFA’s intention to investigate the reported punishment that the North Korean side were subjected to, upon their return. According to the reports, the coach Kim Jong-hun was sentenced to hard labour and his squad were subjected to a six-hour interrogation by government officials following a World Cup campaign which ended with three straight defeats. 

Whatever fate befell the team on their return, North Korea has got form when it comes to disproportionate and horrific punishment. For example in June, Ri Hyun-ok, who was 33-years-old, was publicly executed in the North Western city of Rhyongchon, on charges of distributing bibles. Her parents, husband and three children were sent to political prison camps. In April, two officials were reportedly executed over a currency revaluation that was blamed for fuelling food shortages and unrest.

In a country which continues to deny access to independent human rights monitors, it is hard to verify reports about the footballers, but it really does add some perspective to Gerrard’s woes. This is a different league of putting the boot in. 

In other football related Amnesty news, we are all on tenterhooks ahead of this weekend’s “critics vs comics” match at the Edinburgh Festival, which will play out at Meadowbank Stadium,  Sunday 15 August, kick-off 1.45pm.

Though reprisals for the defeated side are not expected to be severe.  Find out more here.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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