SEOUL - North Korea said Wednesday that it had barred one of its top domestic football clubs from all competition for six months, in a rare admission of cheating in sports.
A report by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) - headlined "Strong Disciplinary Action Taken against Sonbong Team" - said the manner of the club's victory in the final of the domestic "Torch Cup" tournament two weeks ago had been "contrary to proper sporting spirit and morality".
The precise offence was unclear, but KCNA said Sonbong had fielded a "wrong player" in the final against the April 25 team - suggesting it may have been caught bringing in a ringer for the game.
The offence took on added significance given that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attended the match at the Kim Il-Sung stadium in Pyongyang and had his picture taken with the victorious Sonbong team afterwards.
KCNA said the incident had caused a "social furore" and "chilled the daily mounting sports fervour" in the country.
"This sparked off criticism not only among the players who took part in the match but among soccer fans, service personnel and people," it quoted a spokesman for the Committee for Examining Discipline in Sports Matches as saying.
As well as banning Sonbong from playing for six months, the team was stripped of its cup title, with April 25 being declared the official winner, the spokesman said.