“I’m rooting for North Korea” in the World Cup, writes Michael Elliott in Time. His back-page essay describes his experience of growing up in Liverpool and watching an underdog Nork team play well in 1966. “So this year, I’ll be cheering the North once again.”
Elliott apparently lives in a moral vacuum. Soccer always has had a political dimension. We know this because Time tells us so: The sub-head of another article in the same issue says that “soccer has long been a political statement.” Elliott admits that “the hereditary dictatorship in Pyongyang is one of the world’s most repressive regimes, cruel and heartless.” But then he waxes nostalgic about something called chollima, which is apparently Korean for a “can-do spirit.” He seems either not to know or not to care that a successful soccer performance by the Norks would enhance the prestige of tyrants–and at a moment of unusually high tensions with South Korea, in the wake of a naval atrocity that killed 46 South Korean sailors (in an incident that has attracted only a fraction of the attention now focused on Israel for the Gaza-flotilla fiasco).
I’ve got nothing against the individual North Korean players. Although they’ve surely been indoctrinated by the minions of Kim Jong Il, they’ve also traveled the world. A few of them may even suspect that their rulers are evil.
Elliott shouldn’t cheer for them to win. He should cheer for them to defect.