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Lemos: North Korea is like a different planet

  • Published at 07:29 pm August 29th, 2019
lemos
Abahani coach Mario Lemos and the rest of the coaching staff pose for photographs in Pyongyang Wednesday

“Everything was different there. There was no wifi, no internet for four days. Most of the time, we had to stay inside the hotel and we were always accompanied by their people assigned to us. It’s little bit like staying in jail. I think it’s like living on a different planet,” said Lemos.

Abahani Limited had a different experience in their first ever trip to North Korea than the bitter one Indian Super League outfit Bengaluru FC faced two years ago, but still, it was altogether a different experience as Portuguese head coach Mario Lemos termed the country as a “different planet”.

Australian midfielder Eric Partaalu shared his first North Korea experience with BBC after his side, Bengaluru, played the away leg against 4.25 SC in the same stage of the AFC Cup (Inter-Zone semi-final) two years ago. 

The experience included staying in an almost empty airport for two hours, having the baggage lost and missile test that fired off over the hotel room, but Lemos faced none of those.

The Abahani head coach shared his latest experience over phone from Beijing after the team, with the exception of Sunday Chizoba, left DPR Korean capital Pyongyang Thursday following their AFC Cup campaign that ended in a 2-0 defeat (5-4 on aggregate) in the return leg the previous day. 

It was the first time in four days that the players, coaches and officials managed to get back to the world of internet.

“Everything was different there. There was no wifi, no internet for four days. Most of the time, we had to stay inside the hotel and we were always accompanied by their people assigned to us. It’s little bit like staying in jail. I think it’s like living on a different planet,” said Lemos.

The mobile phones and tablets of Bengaluru players were checked repeatedly after landing in the world’s most secretive state. 

It was however, not the same for Abahani.  

Lemos added, “I thought it would be stricter but it was not. The rest of the things were okay. There is no complaint. They treated us very well. There was good food, good accommodation and the hospitality was also very good.”

The food menu included curry, rice, pasta, beef, chicken and a lot of other dishes but there was no opportunity for the visitors to roam around the city, except staying inside the hotel and the stadium. 

Lemos, while answering what he observed in the North Korean people, said, “People look happy but you can feel they look like more controlled.”

Meanwhile, there was no live streaming or live updates of the game. 

The team list was also not available. 

It was only known from Lemos what Abahani’s formation was in the game. 

The 5-3-2 formation from the home leg where Abahani won 4-3 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka was unchanged but there was only one change in the starting XI with debutant Eissa replacing defender Waly Faisal.

“They pressed really hard in the first 15 minutes. We also had three chances in the game from Sunday, [Kervens] Belfort and [Nabib Newaj] Jibon. After we conceded the first goal and Mamun Mia got sent off, it became too difficult. But we tried to score and fought a lot against a very, very strong team. We learned a lot,” said Lemos.


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