In a nice change from his usual priorities of intercontinental ballistic missile launches and systematic human rights abuses, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has reportedly made football a strategic priority for his homeland.
Spanish daily paper Marca reports that the autocratic ruler of the DPRK wants to nurture the world's next top footballer on the Korean peninsula, presumably with the intention of using him as an international propaganda tool. Ri Yu-Il, head coach at the recently opened International Football School Pyongyang, said: "We train our young people to be like the most talented players, including Lionel Messi."
The remit of the International Football School Pyongyang is fairly ambitious, even if its aims seem a little far-fetched at present. "For now, we will seek to dominate Asia in the near future," Ri Yu-Il went on. "One day, I hope we can dominate the whole world."
North Korea are currently ranked 126th in the world according to FIFA, 82 places behind their arch-rivals in the South. They last competed in a major tournament at the 2010 World Cup, where they lost all three of their games and got pumped 7-0 by a fairly average Portugal side.
In the aftermath of that tournament, the players were lambasted in a terrifying public inquisition, while the manager was reportedly forced to become a builder and expelled from the Workers' Party Of Korea. In that context, one would imagine the DPRK will struggle to produce the next Messi, given that one bad game is likely to see him sent to work in an aluminium smelting plant for an indefinite period.