GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that he is a fan of his native South Korea’s soccer team, which open its World Cup campaign against Russia later in the day, but that out of a sense of neutrality he would not tune into the match.
Ban, asked whether he would watch the start of the ‘Red Devils’ opening match in Group H in Cuiaba, Brazil and his forecast of the score, displayed his diplomatic skills.
“That is a very delicate, sensitive question for me,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
“I may not hide my own sentiment and support for the (South) Korean team. But as a Secretary General it would be very important that I need to be impartial. I am supporting all the teams who are participating in the World Cup.
“But you should know that at the same time, when the (South) Korean team is competing with any other team, starting with Russia today, you may expect that my heart may beat much faster than normal time.
“Just to keep my neutrality, I decided not to watch the game. And I will get the report from my staff early tomorrow morning.”
Ban is a former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea who succeeded Kofi Annan as U.N. chief in 2007.
The Korean peninsula was divided into the Communist North and pro-American South at the end of World War Two in 1945. North Korea failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup contest but played in 2010.
“Sports has extraordinary power to spontaneously unite the people,” Ban said, speaking in general terms.
“This is one of the very important powerful tools and means to promote reconciliation, harmony, development and peace.”
He travels to Lausanne later on Tuesday for talks with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“I am going to visit Haiti next month with the IOC President, again to promote peace and stability and economic development through sports,” Ban said.
“The IOC has contributed a huge sports complex for youth, in Zambia two years ago. They are going to do same thing in Haiti, I highly commend such an initiative.”
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by Nigel Hunt