Seoul - Switzerland's FC Basel came close to causing a diplomatic incident between the mountain nation and North Korea because a picture of the team's two Korean players, North Korean striker Pak Kwang-ryong and South Korean defender Park Joo-ho, was published showing them together, something North Korea said it would not allow.
Michael J. Agovino, of the US sports channel ESPN, wrote a feature article on Monday titled 'Korea United FC', posting a picture of the two players sitting on the bench together during team training, an unusual sight of two Cold War foes working together for the greater glory of the sport.
"When they joined our team, there were some orders from [North Korea]," FC Basel Basel's coach Heiko Vogel said, namely "no interviews" or "pictures" of the two together.
Pak has a North Korean handler, a former North Korean referee, who checks on him; however, he also has an iPhone and a multilingual Facebook page that he updates on a regular basis.
Although Park and Pak maintain a sense of distance on official occasions, they sit next to each other on the team's bus and share the same music.
For coach Vogel, "This sport has shown often that it breaks through borders, lines. And if we can help them help the two countries come together, that would be gigantic."