Have you ever seen a Mackem in Pyonyang? Why Sunderland AFC could become the best supported football club in North Korea
Have you ever seen a Mackem in Pyonyang? Well one Black Cats fan hopes there will soon be many more after he launched a drive to make Sunderland AFC the best supported foreign football club in North Korea.
Several months ago, Visit North Korea made headlines when it struck a deal with North East non-league side Blyth Spartans.
Sunderland man Tom Fowdy, 26, who came up with the idea as part of an innovative attempt to connect the isolated country with the world through promoting travel and cultural exchanges, has now announced a new bid to “turn North Korea red and white”.
Tom, who is originally from Farringdon but lives in the Far East and is a regular visit to the country, said: “We’re going to make Sunderland, despite our current plight in League One, the most supported foreign football team in North Korea.
“We are going to slowly accumulate over 2019 an enormous number of Sunderland football shirts by various means and donate them to the locals.
“Although the DPRK is the most closed nation on the world, we are going to work to permanently ingrain Wearside into their national consciousness in a way which no football team has ever done before.
“Going around Pyongyang, I have seen Barcelona merchandise, I have seen Brazil National Football team merchandise, they are certainly not shut off from the world of football, but this is a whole new challenge.
“Will some be concerned by this? Absolutely, will some laugh at it? More than likely.
“However, we are confident that this effort will be a positive cultural engagement with the DPRK which will improve grassroots engagement with the outside world.
“In addition, it will also again serve to raise the profile of football in North East England and not least, Sunderland itself.”
Passionate SAFC supporter Tom added that the western world often has a distorted view of North Korea culture.
“People in North Korea have a surprisingly good awareness of world football and the Premier League,” said Tom, who attended Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Southend United at the Stadium of Light earlier this season with girlfriend Doyeon.
“In my experience, locals have been able to discuss clubs, players and managers with incredible levels of accuracy, even to the point of humour.
“I will never forget when a North Korean soldier poked fun at the England team for crashing out in the cup stages in 2014.
“You get these silly stories such as ‘North Korea claimed they won the World Cup’ and so on, but it simply isn’t true.
“They are passionate about football.
“Sometimes, you even see shirts and memorabilia from big teams popping up in Pyongyang.
“I want to be able to share the passion and spirit of Sunderland and its people throughout the world.
“I love my club, I love my city and although we have been through tough times as of late, I believe there is a great sense of enrichment in doing that.
“Through simple words and deeds, we help ordinary North Koreans articulate ties and gain increasing fondness for the wider world.
“We build bridges, we break down barriers, we build hope.”
Those who want to get involved with Tom’s project or find out more should go to www.visitthedprk.org