- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - It has been five decades since Pak Du Ik scored the winning goal in North Korea’s shocking upset of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the 1966 World Cup, a match that remains the country’s most memorable in football folklore.

“Now, 50 years later, if I think of that time, I was really young … and although Italy was a very strong team, we beat them, the strong team,” Pak said in a recent interview with Associated Press Television News to commemorate the anniversary.

“I still haven’t lost the feeling of happiness from that. Also, I can still remember really clearly the way the British crowds supported our team.”

North Korea ended Italy’s run at the tournament with the 1-0 win at Middlesbrough, England, on July 19, 1966, then lost to Portugal in the quarterfinals.

A group of players returned to the stadium in Middlesbrough in 2002 to celebrate again the win over Italy, wearing red jerseys and scarves and receiving rapturous cheers from the crowd.

Pak attended that ceremony, but had a quieter reflection closer to home for the golden jubilee.

North Korea has reached the men’s World Cup finals only once since then - losing all three group games in 2010. The ‘66 performance remained the best run by an Asian team at the marquee tournament until South Korea’s surge to the semifinals in 2002.

While teenage players recall that North Korea beat Italy in ‘66, some are vague on the details. Jang Kyong Il, coach of the national under-14 women’s team, is among those who want to ensure the highlights live on.

“Still, up until now, for us Korean sportspeople here, Pak Du Ik is a real sports hero,” he said.

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