Tottenham forward and star of the South Korea national team Son Heung-min has described his country's historic World Cup qualifier with North Korea as being 'very aggressive', saying he was glad to escape unscathed.
North and South Korea faced off at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang on Tuesday 16 October. The two (still technically warring) nations have met just once before on the North's soil, 29 years ago. Since 1990, North Korea's games against their neighbours have typically been played in Japan or China.
The landmark match hosted by the notoriously secretive totalitarian state, which was attended by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, was not broadcast on any TV station, while the 50,000-seater stadium was largely empty. Infantino - who reportedly flew direct to Pyongyang by private jet despite the South's team being forced to travel via Beijing - later said he was 'disappointed' by the lack of fans, foreign media and broadcasting.
The game itself finished (somewhat diplomatically) 0-0. However, South Korea's players have since spoken of the tensions during the game.
Tottenham's Son who is the captain of South Korea told reporters (via CNA): "It's too bad that we didn't win, but the match was very aggressive to a degree it’s a huge achievement just to return safely without being injured.
"North Korean players were sensitive and aggressive...There was a lot of severe swearing (from them)."
Son also commented on the peculiarities of playing in the secretive North, specifically how players were not allowed access to mobile phones during their stay.
"I liked it because I got to sleep a lot," Son added.
Meanwhile, Choi Young-il, the vice president of the Korea Football Association said: "It was like war. I've never seen such (aggression) in football until now."
South Korea coach Paulo Bento also complained that the referee was forced to stop play too often to warn players over their conduct.
Sweden's ambassador to North Korea Joachim Bergstrom was one of few in attendance, sharing a few images and videos on his Twitter account, which included what appeared to be one bust-up between the sets of players, giving a brief insight into one of football's strangest derbies.