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UK Considered Denying North Korea Visas To 1966 World Cup

Mon, 14th Jun 2010 01:45

LONDON (AFP)--The U.K. considered denying visas to the North Korean football team to attend the 1966 World Cup finals over fears their presence could spark an international storm, official documents showed.

London was concerned the hardline communist state--which it didn't recognize at the time--might cause tension at the tournament, according to documents released from government archives Sunday.

The 1966 World Cup came 13 years the Korean War and in the midst of the Cold War.

The U.K. was worried North Korea might be angered if they were prevented from playing their national anthem or flying their flag.

But after objections from England's football authority, which feared losing the chance to host the competition, the communist state was allowed to take part, according to the archived documents.

"The simplest way to solve the problem might be to refuse visas to the North Korean team," said a Foreign Office memo written in the months before the World Cup.

"But if we do this the consequences could be very serious.

"Apparently (football's governing body) FIFA has made it very plain to the FA (governing body of football in England) that if any team has won its way through to the finals (and) is denied visas then the finals will take place elsewhere.

"This would be a disaster for the FA."

Korea was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones in 1945. Five years later the north and the south embarked on a three-year war.

The conflict drew in countries including the U.S., the U.K. and China and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Another Foreign Office memo said: "The North Koreans will probably object very strongly if they are prevented from playing their national anthem, displaying their national flag etc, when the other fifteen countries taking part in the finals are all permitted to do so."

But the FA warned: "We must not risk the possibility of these championships being taken away from this country after we have spent some four years in preparation and, of course, involved ourselves in a very considerable financial outlay."

Officials eventually decided to allow North Korea to fly its flag at all matches alongside the flags of other competitors but the playing of national anthems was restricted.

North Korea made it through to the quarter finals, but England went on to win the competition. The communist state is competing in this year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 13, 2010 20:45 ET (00:45 GMT)

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