Jorn Andersen leaves North Korea but has no regrets

North Korea’s Norwegian manager has left his role in charge of the country’s national team as his contract was allowed to run out.

In an interview with Reuters, the Norwegian coach was quoted as saying, "I don't want to stay. It was interesting and I learned a lot and experienced many things, but the economic situation is not so good so it's not possible to stay."

Andersen was only the second foreign coach to manage North Korea after Pál Csernai of Hungary in 1991. Andersen renewed his contract in 2017 and was confident for the up-and-coming 2019 Asian Cup. Andersen was heavily criticised in Norwegian media for accepting the role in Pyongyang, with Norwegian media claiming that Andersen would become a brick for the North Korean propaganda machine.

Andersen set two main targets to attain in his role, the first was to make sure North Korea reached the finals of the East Asian Football Championship. He succeeded in getting them to the final round by coming out the top of the qualifying group which contained Taiwan, Hong Kong and Guam. In the final round, North Korea performed well, but they didn’t win a game even though they produced some of the grittiest performances of the final round.

The second target was to make sure North Korea qualified for the Asian Cup 2019 finals which is due to take place in the UAE. Andersen and North Korea achieved that aim by defeating Hong Kong 2-0 in a winner took all match that took place in Pyongyang earlier this month. In truth, North Korea were always favourites to qualify from both the East Asian Championships and the Asian Cup qualifying groups.

Andersen also said that he had a minor target of changing the North Korean’s playing style. Andersen on arriving in North Korea commented on the route one element to the North Korean football team. He declares he has succeeded in making them play better football and the side are better organised for it, therefore he is leaving with no regrets.

The reason he is leaving his position is seemingly down to the U.N sanctions against North Korea, with the sanctions preventing North Korea from receiving any funding from the organizers of the East Asian Championship for qualifying or for the women’s national team becoming East Asian Champions. The sanctions meant that North Korea lost out on $70,000 US dollars in winnings.

Andersen has been heavily linked with the next Hong Kong manager position making the last match between the two countries extremely pertinent, could he just be in line for the job because he was the man in charge of eliminating them? Andersen has said he would like to remain in Asia but has many offers to choose from. If you were to bet on it, I would say that destination would be Hong Kong.

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