An empty flight, a deserted airport, a scary balcony, and a digital detox: ex-A-League striker Harry Sawyer gives FTBL the inside story to an eye-opening three days in Pyongyang for an AFC Cup playoff.
No internet that's a killer, a lot of the younger boys weren't themselves without the internet! I could tell some of the younger lads were struggling without their phones.
Luckily they didn't confiscate my David Beckham book so I read that. And I downloaded some Netflix episodes - Vikings was what I watched to kill time. I made sure I didn't have any Donald Trump documentaries!
Monday Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday without the internet…I felt at one with nature!!
Match day: samba and synchronised warm ups
After breakfast, we went for a team walk down to the end of the road where our hotel was, then back into the hotel where we had to occupy ourselves before going to the stadium. I ended up playing pool with the Brazilian boys. Lunch then off to the stadium.
They had more big portraits of North Korean leaders hanging in and around the stadium.
Once we got off the bus we could see it was a big venue, and there was security and army uniforms escorting us to the dressing rooms.
The dressing rooms were quite nice, the Brazilian boys had downloaded some of their music to play. So there we were in this cold, soulless stadium in North Korea getting pumped up by this loud Samba music!
With that happy, vibes music it was like a change of scenery for us.
I think we needed that.
No goals in Pyongyang stalemate
Ryomyong was basically the U23 national team.
They warmed up in a very unusual manner. All very synchronised with warm up kicks and the like - well structured warm ups. They were very well drilled and disciplined, fast and hard.
Their buildup play was very structured they would play in wide areas with overlapping fullbacks. They played a 4-4-2.
They basically played the same way as their national team. We noticed that from our video analysis before we left Hong Kong. They were almost robotic.
Funnily, during the game every time they would go for a header or try to kick the ball they would grunt loudly. Every time a ball came in it sounded like the Aussie Open tennis with these big grunts!
I wanted to talk to some of their players after the game but we hurried off the pitch pretty quickly. It was 0-0 so a decent result for us away from home with the return leg in a week.
With a 4pm kick off on a Wednesday, which was a bit weird, I didn't think anybody would be there.
The fans it seemed to me we're an organised crowd. By that I mean it was like a crowd who were told to go see the game, they sat in a formation that made up the DPR Korea flag - blue and red shirts that when sat in a formation correctly, displayed the North Korean flag.
The rest of their fans it looked like they were from the army. At random points in the match, they would chant together but it seemed to have no relation to what was happening on the pitch.
It was a bit odd and definitely a different type of experience. [Ed: Sawyer was subbed off after 81 minutes, and he picked up a yellow card].