International Branches: North Korea

Contact: Tom Fowdy

What inspired you to support Sunderland?

I was born and grew up in Sunderland. Like most of us, it's team of my family. It's my heritage, it's a part of who I am. I am very proud of that. Be it the best of times or the worst of times.

Have you watched Sunderland â€˜til I die on Netflix? What did you think of it?  

It's been eyeopening to see the mistakes and disappointments which brought our club down. It's tough to take sometimes, but I cannot say I am not happy with the publicity our club has been able to receive. It's been good for our profile.

What time are the Sunderland matches on in North Korea and do you watch them with any other supporters?

In the Korean timezone, saturday afternoon kickoffs start at midnight and midweek evening games are about 4am. I haven't had the opportunity yet of getting together with anyone else to watch them.

What was the first Sunderland match you ever watched? Can you remember the score?

I absolutely remember it. When I was a child my Aunty took me to see Sunderland vs. Aston Villa in 2002. We won 1-0 from a goal from David Bellion, turned out to be the only one he would ever score for us.

How long have you been supporting Sunderland for?

All my life, of course.

Why do you want to make Sunderland Football Club popular in North Korea?

Sunderland is more than just a football club, it is a passion and it is a part of who we are. It is a symbol of our city, of our heritage and standing as a people in North East England. It is who we understand ourselves to be in this world. To be able to share that passion with even the most isolated countries in the world is a bridge that allows us to reach out and connect with people of cultures and backgrounds so different to our own.
For the people of North Korea to grasp the spirit of Sunderland is something that broadens their horizons and gives them a new perspective, an attachment to the outside world.
Roughly, how many Sunderland fans are there in Pyongyang now?

We are starting from scratch. That is the excitement of this challenge. They have an awareness of the premier league and inevitably drift towards the "big teams", but we are going to connect with them in a personal way which no club has ever yet tried.

What are you going to do to create a large Sunderland fanbase in Pyongyang?  

Our plan is to raise awareness by donating a gradual flow of Sunderland merchandise to the country, including football shirts, scarfs and other memorabilia. We will look at donating to local schools, colleges and other institutions. North Koreans do love their football, but they have no access or resources to buy things like football shirts. This provides an incredible opportunity not just to develop our fanbase, but to engage in a profound act of charity as well to a people much less fortunate than our own.

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