Something special in sport and international relations will take place at North Harbour Stadium tomorrow afternoon. A team of schoolgirls from North Korea, a country which is an immediate past member of George W. Bush's "axis of evil", will play his United States under-17 girls' side in the Fifa World Cup final.
That a schoolgirl side from North Korea would be involved in the biggest sports event in New Zealand this weekend is peculiar in itself. We rarely see a visitor from the Hermit Kingdom. That these girls will find vocal support in the stands at Albany from local fans, resident here but formerly of South Korea, will speak volumes for sport's power to unify. It was on display in Christchurch during North Korea's victory over England midweek and a repeat must be on the cards from the Korean population on the North Shore and wider Auckland.
They will be far from alone in rejoicing in this superb tournament. It has been a revelation, even to New Zealanders familiar with soccer's pre-eminence in staging first-class global competitions. The young women participating have attracted crowds to the grounds and produced sizzling action with great drama for television audiences. It helps that Fifa and the soccer world take its age tournaments seriously; at least one of the TV commentators is from the team that brings us the adult men's World Cup action.
As host nation, New Zealand performed more than honourably on the field, with tight losses to two quarter-finalists, Canada and Denmark, and a superb three-goal win over Colombia. Off the field there has been a fine spirit and the good weather, respectable crowds, fluid action and sublime goals have distinguished this football from the common New Zealand experience. Tomorrow's final, rich in symbolism and loaded with talent, should be something else again.