NORTH KOREA'S FAKEOUT
The issue: Since attending the World Cup is out of the question for most North Koreans, Pyongyang has solved its on-site fan shortage by recruiting a thousand Chinese citizens to fly the old red, white, and blue on its behalf. Among the members of the so-called "volunteer army" are Chinese actors, comedians, and pop stars lucky enough to have snagged a ticket from the North Korean sports ministry.
With North Korea expected to fall early to soccer powerhouses Brazil and Portugal in the aptly named Group of Death, the Chinese cheer team is probably in for a short trip. It also has some pretty big shoes to fill. During a 2005 home match against Iran, an unfavorable call from the referee sparked a revolt among enraged North Koreans and the army had to be called in to restore order.
The North Korean team arrived in Johannesburg to little fanfare on June 1, after the pariah state was rebuffed in several attempts secure a training ground in one of South Africa's neighboring states. Tiny Swaziland earlier balked at Pyongyang's demand that it provide accommodation, meals, transportation and also fork over $250,000 for the privilege of hosting North Korea's heroes. Zimbabwe, a close ally, was the natural second choice, but the team's plans to train there were foiled when protesters highlighted North Korea's involvement in a bloody massacre that took place in the country in the 1980s.
What to watch for: On June 15, North Korea takes the field against Brazil's legendary team. Expect it to get ugly.