A new fixture has been announced for current Unofficial Football World Champions North Korea. This next UFWC title match will see the North Koreans play Kuwait on 17 February, in Changsha, China. A friendly match, the game allows Kuwait to make their UFWC bow. The Arab state has never before played in a UFWC title match.
Changsha is the location of Kuwait’s training camp ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier against South Korea on 29 February. If Kuwait win that match, they’ll qualify for the next stage of World Cup qualification at the expense of the South Koreans. The two sides drew 1-1 (at the brilliantly-named Peace and Friendship Stadium in Kuwait City) in their previous meeting in September.
Kuwait will also play China at their training camp (hence the choice of venue) in a pre-qualifier friendly match on 22 February, raising the intriguing possibility of China playing in a UFWC title match for the first time ever.
As for North Korea, the match against Kuwait represents a warm-up for their World Cup Qualifier in Tajikistan on 29 February, although, of course, the North Koreans cannot now qualify for the 2014 tournament.
North Korea and Kuwait last met in August 2011, playing out a 0-0 draw. They’d previously played each other twice within the space of a week in December 2010, resulting in a 2-2 draw, and a 2-1 win for Kuwait. The two sides have played each other six times in over the last 20 years, with North Korea only winning one of those meetings – and that was on penalties.
Kuwait are actually ranked higher than North Korea by FIFA – 99th compared to 110th. Both relatively lowly figures on the official world stage, but a win for Kuwait would at least see the unofficial title pass to a top 100-ranked team…
Coached by Serbian Goran Tufegdzic, Kuwait played 21 matches in 2011, winning nine, drawing six, and losing six. They scored 29 goals in those 21 games, so certainly seem to know where the back of the net is. (Back in 2000, Kuwait beat Bhutan 20-0 – the biggest ever win in international football, until Australia beat Tonga 22-0 in the following year.)
Kuwait’s only major football honour was an AFC Asian Cup win in 1980, although they’ve also had Gulf of Nations and West Asian Games wins. Most of the squad plays in the Kuwaiti domestic league. Top scorer Bader-Al Mutwa is also Kuwait’s most-capped player, having made 112 appearances for his country, scoring 31 goals. 21-year-old Yousef Nasser has already hit 13 goals in 21 appearances. Kuwait’s goal against South Korea in September was scored by defender Hussain Fadel. We’ll take a closer look at the Kuwaiti team in a separate feature ahead of the match.
So, this new title match raises a number of interesting possibilities. If North Korea win, they will retain the UFWC title and go on to defend it against Tajikistan. North Korea are subsequently due to play in the AFC Challenge Cup in March, having been drawn in Group B alongside the Philippines, India and our old friends Tajikistan. If Kuwait win, they will become unofficial football world champions, and, as previously mentioned, will go on to play China. Could China become UFWC champions? And even if Kuwait could avoid defeat against China, they would then have to defend their title against South Korea.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. for the time being, the UFWC title remains firmly in North Korean hands. Stay tuned to find out whether Kuwait can do anything about that.