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Middlesbrough's ladies team is set to strength the unique links between the town and North Korea by visiting the country on a football and cultural exchange.
MFC Ladies are preparing for a four-day stay in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, between September 18 and 23.
A group of 14 players and three coaching staff will travel to Pyongyang, travelling via Moscow and Beijing before their arrival in a land its people know as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Middlesbrough has enjoyed a strong bond with the East Asian country since hosting North Korea at Ayresome Park during the 1966 World Cup when they famously beat Italy to cause one of the tournament's biggest ever upsets.
In recognition of the special relationship resulting from the support given to the Koreans by 'Boro fans, the 1966 squad paid an emotional return visit to Middlesbrough in October 2002. Surviving members of the squad - including Pak Do Ik, scorer of the winning goal against Italy - will meet the MFC Ladies team during their visit to Pyongyang.
MFC Ladies manager Marrie Wieczorek explained that they will travel to North Korea following an invitation from the British Embassy in Pyongyang and specialist travel agency, Koryo Tours. The event is sponsored by CLSA, Asia's leading independent brokerage and investment group.
Former England Ladies player Marrie, who works for MFC in the Community, said: "Everyone is so excited about the trip. It's such a fantastic opportunity for all of us to visit a country that we could never have imagined getting to see.
"I know North Korea is shrouded in mystery for many people in the UK but I get the impression that the Koreans will be wonderful hosts.
"The trip is very much about friendship and is evidence of football's power to break down cultural barriers.
"It has all come about thanks to the wonderful support the people of Middlesbrough and Teesside as a whole gave the Koreans at the 1966 World Cup."
Koryo Tours director Nick Bonner, who along with business partner Dan Gordon made a TV documentary, The Game of their Lives, about the 1966 World Cup team, has visited North Korea almost every month for the past 17 years.
"This is the first time a football team has visited North Korea purely on the basis of friendship so it is quite unique," he said. "The people there love their football and have a special bond with Middlesbrough.
"Only recently their Vice Minister for Culture talked publicly of his country's special relationship with Middlesbrough and our documentary has been shown three times on state television there this year, as has another made of the return visit to Teesside in 2002.
"Both 1966 and 2002 are seen as magical events by the North Korean people. There is no doubt about it that they came to England in 1966 as the enemy, as many English people had fought in the Korean War, but the people of Teesside adopted them as their team and they have never forgotten that."
MFC Ladies will play two North Korean women's teams during their visit, while they will also hold coaching sessions for local children.
Their visit will also include an evening reception at the British Embassy where they will meet surviving members of North Korea's 1966 World Cup squad. They are taking with them gifts from Middlesbrough Football Club and Middlesbrough Council.
The players visiting North Korea, setting off on the morning of September 16, are Ami Bullen, Abbey Lyle, Shannon Bewick, Rachie Hine, Katie Kinlan, Chelsea Jowers, Clare Helm, Lindsey Stephenson, Leanne Hawxwell, Ashleigh Leighton, Nicola Duckling, Abbey Freeman and Becky Stephenson. They will be joined by manager Marrie Wieczorek, assistant manager Dave James and goalkeeper coach Kris Dixon.
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