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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
N Korea football violence erupts
Man whips up the crowd ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Iran on 30/03/05
Sporting events in North Korea are normally carefully choreographed
North Korean soldiers and riot police had to step in after violence erupted when the home side lost a World Cup qualifying match to Iran, say reports.

Bottles, stones and chairs were thrown on to the pitch in Pyongyang after a North Korean player was sent off.

Violence then spilled over outside the stadium and thousands of angry fans reportedly prevented Iranian players from boarding the team bus.

North Korea, which lost 2-0, is bottom of its World Cup qualifying group.

It has already lost to Japan and Bahrain and must win its three remaining matches to stand a chance of making it through to next year's World Cup finals in Germany.

Wednesday's violence erupted in the second half of the match at the Kim Il-sung stadium, which was broadcast on international satellite television.

North Korean players and fans became upset when one of their players was blocked by an Iranian defender and fell near the goal, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

Demanding a penalty, they rushed Syrian referee Mohamed Kousa, who instead gave a North Korean player a red card, according to Kyodo.

'Severe punishment'

The unrest continued after the final whistle, and match officials were unable to leave the pitch for more than 20 minutes as objects were thrown at them.

As the violence continued outside the stadium, riot police stepped in and managed to push the crowd back so that the Iranian team could leave.

"The atmosphere on the pitch and outside the pitch was not a sports atmosphere," Iran's coach Branko Ivankovic was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

"It is very disappointing when you feel your life is not safe. My players tried to get to the bus after the game but it was not possible - it was a very dangerous situation."

A North Korean defector and former football official told Reuters that his homeland had an organised society and such behaviour was unlikely to be tolerated.

"I have never seen anything like this myself," he said. "The people responsible are likely to be tracked down and severely punished."

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