North Korea vow to produce better players than Messi

The Asian nation may be working under strict sanctions, but there is a desire on their part to dominate their geographical region and then world football

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North Korea are looking to produce players who can “surpass the skills of people like Lionel Messi” and help them to “achieve global dominance”.

Having opened the Pyongyang International Football School in 2013, the Asian nation is determined to mould the superstars of tomorrow.

They are setting lofty targets, as they continue to work under strict sanctions, but the ultimate goal is to become a world force in football circles.

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North Korea are ranked 126th by FIFA at present, sandwiched between Armenia and Ethiopa.

They are a long way down on regional rivals South Korea, Japan and China, but the idea is to bring through a generation of talent that can match the achievements of today’s leading lights – such as Barcelona talisman Messi – and help the country to challenge for major honours at home and abroad.

Ri Yu-Il, a coach at the Pyongyang academy, told reporters during a training facility tour: “We are training our students to become super-talented players who can surpass the skills of people like Lionel Messi.

"For now, I think we should dominate Asia and, in the near future, I hope that we will achieve global dominance.”

North Korea’s finest footballing moment to date came back in 1966 when they stunned European heavyweights Italy to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on English soil.

They returned to that stage in 2010 – losing all three of their group games in South Africa – and the intention is to become a regular fixture at major events.

Norwegian-born national team coach Jorn Anderson believes plans to produce Messi-esque talent may be slightly optimistic, but is confident that improvements will be made if restrictions on movement are relaxed.

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He told AFP: "No, I don't think they can make a Lionel Messi, but I think they can make good players for Asia.

"There are many talented players... but they always have to stay inside the country. They can't go out.

"When they are always playing inside (North Korea), it's difficult to create better players."