North Korea defended their selection of a suspended player and dodged questioning about their coach’s one-year ban on Friday as they prepared to open their Asian Cup campaign against Uzbekistan.

At a press conference, North Korean translator replied “What do you mean?” to a query about suspended coach Yun Jong-Su, before the question was given the red card by the moderator.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) banned Yun for a year over his angry rant following North Korea’s narrow loss to South Korea in the Asian Games final in October.

North Korea’s squad is missing South Korean-based star striker Jong Tae-Se but includes Ri Sang-Chol, who will miss all three Group B games through suspension.

Caretaker coach Jo Tong-Sop said Jong was injured, and added Ri would benefit from the trip despite not playing — and would be fresh if North Korea qualify for the knock-outs.

“He’s a good player. He cannot participate in the three matches in the group stage, I know that very well,” said Jo.

“This will be a very good chance for him to learn how fair play is important for a player. And if he has a good rest he can be used in the next stage of the Asian Cup.”

North Korea face a difficult first outing on Saturday against Uzbekistan, the 2011 semi-finalists who were one win away from a World Cup play-off last year.

The team from the isolated communist state have not played a friendly since November but Jo said he preferred to work on team unity rather than warm-up matches. 

“Training matches would help the team to get ready for the tournament, it’s true but rather than playing a lot of friendly matches, I concentrated on uniting our team and preparing our team,” he said.

Jo added: “Any player who is mentally ready and able to concentrate all his spirit and all his ability to his play, he can score.” – Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -