North Korean team members sing their national anthem at the opening ceremony of the East Asian Football Championship Final Competition in 2005. A European coach has accepted an offer from Pyongyang to train the team for international competitions. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, May 12 (UPI) -- A Norwegian-born soccer coach has agreed to direct North Korea's national team, but the move is drawing criticism from a human rights organization.
Jørn Andersen, a German citizen and veteran coach for numerous German teams, signed a one-year contract with Pyongyang, Norway's national broadcaster NRK reported Thursday.
The plan is to train the North Korean players in preparation for the next World Cup, Sputnik International reported.
The decision is being met with critical responses.
Amnesty Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenæs told NRK that he was "very surprised."
"There is no doubt that football is directly subordinated to the government," Egenæs said.
The 53-year-old Anderson has been in North Korea for two weeks, according to his family. He is to coach the men's team.
Anderson's family told Norwegian media the North Koreans were specifically recruiting a coach with experience in Germany.
Anderson acquired German citizenship in 1993.
The coach has played with Norwegian clubs Fredrikstad and Vålerenga, He has coached German clubs and scored five goals for Norway's national team when he was a professional athlete.
Anderson began coaching in 2000 for various teams: Larissa in Greece and Austria Salzburg.
North Korea has previously appointed foreign coaches for the state's soccer team, including a Hungarian coach in 1991.
North Korea failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, and later experienced a devastating famine that left millions dead, according to U.N. estimates.
Since recovering from the catastrophe, North Korea has been stepping up its game, in order to return its soccer team to its former glory.
In 1966, North Korea entered the World Cup quarterfinals by beating Italy and other powerful teams, but has yet to break its own record in the sport.