Although the Hermit Kingdom failed to qualify for the 2014 tournament, North Korea’s state broadcaster has aired nearly all of the World Cup games thus far — albeit one day late. Given the near comprehensive blackout on international media and Internet access in the country, spoilers are of little concern for the vast majority of North Korean viewers — most apparently aren’t even aware that they are seeing the games long after their conclusion.
The England-Italy game, in which Italy triumphed 2-1, was aired by the country’s Korean Central Television (KCTV) at 8:24 p.m. on Monday, more than a full day after it took place, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news service. The World Cup opening ceremony in Rio, along with the Brazil-Croatia match and others, were aired between 24 hours and 35 hours late.
According to NK News, an independent news site that monitors the country, the broadcasts in North Korea betray their peculiar provenance: A South Korean broadcaster’s logo is blurred out from the corner of the screen throughout the airing, with the KCTV logo imposed above it. The audio tracks during the broadcasts have also been heavily censored and reworked, such that the kick and crowd noises often don’t match what’s happening onscreen.
Along with basketball, soccer is among the most popular sports in North Korea. The country qualified for the 2010 World Cup for the first time in 44 years and the games in South Africa were closely followed and celebrated at home. According to Yonhap, Kim Jong-un‘s regime recently opened an “international” soccer school and has been renovating stadiums across the country.
North Korea has a longstanding connection with the sport. It made soccer history at the 1966 World Cup in England, becoming the first Asian nation to make it to the quarterfinals with an upset win over Italy.