Saturday, December 19, 2009

North Korea Looking for a Coach

Think about it. You're a soccer coach with some international chops. Speak two or three languages. Have done coaching time on a coupla-three continents, working through interpreters in countries you normally wouldn't visit unless someone held a gun to your head.

Bora Milutinovic, Guus Hiddink. You know, those guys. Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Then you see this want ad on the "" jobs website*:

"Hermit Kingdom, ruled by a legitimate madman, a country where half the population could starve to death at any time, looking for coach for South Africa 2010 World Cup. Oh, and only if you win will any of your matches be shown on TV back in Pyongyang. On the 104 licensed TVs in the country. Feel free to use corporal punishment on any players who deviate from party line or finish last in wind sprints. Send resume, video of players cowering and fraternal socialist references to ... Kim Jong Il, c/o Axis of Evil, PRK Division."

You're intrigued, right?

What could be freakier than coaching North Korea? What would be crazier, more random and madcap?

Anyway, North Korea is looking for a World Cup coach, and Philippe Troussier apparently is a candidate.

I say, "Go for it!"

North Korea is the country no one gets into. And hardly anyone gets out of. It has been the strangest place on the planet for about 60 years now, and without any real rivals since Albania opened up about 20 years ago. (OK, maybe Myanmar. With Equatorial Guinea and Yemen shaping up as wannabes.)

Most of what any Westerners know about Kim Jong Il is thanks to the Trey Parker/Matt Stone/South Park crew's marionette movie entitled "Team America: World Police". And they portray Kim as crazy as a loon, a guy in thick glasses who drops F bombs and feeds Hans Blix of United Nations fame to the sharks in his monster fish tank.

So, yeah, you get to go work with him.

You will spend months in beautiful downtown Pyongyang, or in some work/re-education camp. Whatever you prefer. They money will be pretty good, but you can't ever talk about it. You won't be able to say much of anything about the competence of your team ... but you sure as heck can keep a diary (if you code it cleverly enough) and write a great book when it's all over.

Dealing with the soul-crushing bureaucracy of the PRK. Maybe meeting Kim Jong Il. Detailing how the players cringe when you raise your hand ... to scratch the top of your head. What the crowds are like if and when you play a home friendly. What your living quarters are like.

The little stuff; like what the players eat. How you don't trust your translator and are sure he works for the secret police and records everything you say. And those four goons who insist on driving you around.

How locked down your training site in South Africa is. How nobody from North Korea actually came to see you play in South Africa. How the players whimpered in fear of retribution when they went out in the first round without scoring a point. (North Korea is in the Group of Death, remember?)

On and on. This is a book waiting to be written. I would buy it right now.

And the one really weird thing of this? Somebody in North Korea is clear-minded enough (and has enough political power) to convince a rabidly nationalistic government that, really, comrades, we have to have a foreigner coach the team or we're going to get destroyed. (Or maybe a foreign coach to blame when we get destroyed.)

Almost makes you a teeny bit optimistic that not every single guy in the PRK politburo is nuts.

Anyway, this should be fun. Well, interesting, anyway. The planet's last great paranoid Communist state, with one of the planet's elite Cults of the Personality going on right this minute.

Can't beat that with a stick.

* -- And no, there isn't such a website. I just made it up. If there were, Bora would sign up for the RSS feed.
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