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Left Wing Cross
Football fans in North Korea enjoy a good deal more freedom than many might have suspected. Plus: The story behind John Hume and David Trimble’s decision to bring arms manufacturer Raytheon to Derry and why Skruf are one of the bands to look out for in 2005.
Eamonn McCann, 26 Apr 2005
I was delighted to read of the latest exploits of the football hooligans of Pyongyang. FIFA has announced an inquiry into “extreme and indefensible” behaviour on March 30th, when, according to Reuters, “mobs rampaged through the streets” of the North Korean capital forcing police to “flee for safety.”
It seems that the bother began after North Korea’s star defender Nam Song-chol was red-carded in the World Cup qualifier against Iran for sending Syrian referee Muhammad Kousa reeling to the ground from a dunt in the back. Kousa, according to objective North Korean fans, hadn’t given their side a single 50-50 decision all night and might as well have been wearing an Iranian jersey.
The final insult came in the 78th minute when the Iranians were inexplicably awarded a penalty, and Kousa disdainfully waved Nam’s protests away. Rocks, bottles and chairs rained down on the pitch for half an hour as outraged fans begged to disagree with the red card decision. Riot police eventually drove the fans out of the Kim Il-sung Stadium. Scenes of wild excitement then engulfed the surrounding streets.
Sunil Senaweera, FIFA’s commissioner at the game, has compiled a report which may lead to next month’s North Korea-Japan tie being played at a neutral venue. “The police lost control of the situation,” he complained. “For around 10 minutes, we were really afraid.”
Of course, responsible citizens such as readers of hotpress will not condone “rampaging mobs” besmirching the beautiful game. But, still. North Koreans, the people more than the crackpot rulers, are commonly depicted as soulless automatons incapable of passionate feeling. It is supposed, too, that the plain people live in such passive terror of the Stalinist State that the notion of them forcing the police to flee for safety is wholly ridiculous. It is against this background that the reports of righteous hooliganism sent a surge of joy through the heart.
How long before fat controller Kim Jong-il is forced to flee for safety?
I have yet to work out what significance attaches to the fact that the three countries involved are in George W. Bush’s current top five target nations. Could they be up to something, do you think?
And another thing. What does Eoghan Harris make of it all? Eoghan was an ardent admirer of the North Korean system just a few years ago. Now he thinks that Dubya is the bees’ knees. There’s times you wouldn’t know what to believe. Except that the Pyongyang football hooligans are the shining hope of the future.
Notes on the peace dividend which passes all understanding (part 137). Once we were promised that when peace arrived there’d be plenty for all. Eager investors would converge on Areas of High Unemployment with fistfuls of fivers to coax our young folk to work. Hasn’t quite worked out. Which is not to deny there have been certain successes. Raytheon, for example.
John Hume and David Trimble brought Raytheon back to Derry as a present to celebrate their Nobel Peace Prize back in 1999. When a few of us said that there’d shurely been shome mishtake, Raytheon being an arms manufacturer aka merchant of death, we were instructed to pipe down pronto lest we endanger the peace.
No, you work it out.
The company’s plant is now an established feature of the industrial landscape of the north west. It’s soon to celebrate five years of production. It’s emerged as one of the items of common ground between Paisleyites, Shinners, Trimbleistas and Stoops that anybody persisting in criticism of Raytheon is the class of malcontent who’ll never be satisfied.
April 5th, a pleasant woman from Raytheon HQ in Tuscon, Arizona, readily agrees to e-mail me news of the latest success guaranteeing future employment in company plants worldwide.
“Raytheon Company has celebrated the delivery of the 1,000th AIM-9X to the US Navy and US Air Force March 29. The event highlighted a production milestone to provide warfighters with unprecedented capability and air dominance in the battlespace. Said Capt. Scott Stewart, the Navy’s program manager for Air-to-Air Missiles, ‘The ingenuity, dedication and expertise of this team has maintained and preserved the Sidewinder as the most formidable and lethal short range missile in the world today.
“‘AIM-9X changes the rules of the dogfight through an advanced system design approach that matches software and computer processing capability,’ added
Brock McCaman, Raytheon vice president…’
“The AIM-9X’s seeker has near instantaneous slew rates, and achieves extremely high off-boresight angles for threat acquisition and first shot opportunity in high clutter and infrared countermeasures environments and extreme agility for ‘first shot, first kill’ dogfight air dominance. Pilots are no longer required to point the aircraft’s nose at the target to employ this advanced weapon system.”
There now. Isn’t that grand? And isn’t it the grandest thing of all that parties like Sinn Fein and the DUP, even in these times of anxious suspicion, can come together to squash malcontents who’d risk Raytheon leaving town in a huff?
Achievements in rock are invariably relative, so Skruf overcoming the ambience of the Gweedore to turn in a stormer of a set is not to be sniffed at. The Waterloo Street venue has the ambience of an overgound dungeon, with a tiny stage positioned to the side of the flapping front door for maximum dissipation of atmosphere. But by the end of the night singer Conor McGowan had his crowd well-orchestrated and swaying to his swivel and strut.
He has the look and the stance of an incipient star, glistening curls and velvety jacket and a genial, imperious approach. Plus he can sing a bit. And has a couple of songs infectious enough that you’re humming a raggedy chorus in your head on the way home – ‘Touch’, ‘The Victim’ and another I couldn‘t catch the name of. Presentable material won’t be their problem. If they have a problem.
Bassist John McLaughlin, drummer Aiden Doherty (one of the Strabane Dohertys) and guitarist Peter Eastwood make a relaxed, competent, confident outfit, with the easy control and inter-dynamic of having been gigging together for longer than seems feasible. Three are recent survivors of Lumen Christie, which isn’t the Dotheboys Hall-hole I recall from the sepia era of St. Columb‘s, but still. You have to find your touch of oppression from somewhere.
They’ve just returned from a practice-run, five-week, 14-gig tour across the pond, tired, happy and skint, as they should be, and apparently had a moment of transcendent mayhem headlining a Paddy’s Day hooley in Strasbourg. (I’m told Strasbourg is a happening half-Irish place. You learn something new every day.) They play a proper set, not a succession of songs, with light and shade and aren’t afraid to take it down slow for a stretch. There’s the results of real work on display.
If the sound is occasionally more mushed than meshed, it’s likely on account of what’s now singularly called “the acoustic”, but McLaughlin maintains an unobtrusive discipline throughout and Eastwood contributes vocals as well as shards of guitar that scythe sweetly through the sound. When they go at it full-tilt they make lovely noise.
You’d wonder if they are sufficiently insane. But madness doesn’t always come natural. They are soon heading off together to a learning-college in Liverpool, where it’s said the streets are crazy-paved. They might be ‘06 Mersey dotes.