North Korean footballer reappears in World Cup qualifier after vanishing three years ago | Football

Han Kwang-song playing for North Korea at the Asian Cup in 2019 (Getty)

North Korean footballer Han Kwang-song has made his first competitive appearance after three years in the wilderness.

The 25-year-old was once regarded as one of North Korea’s brightest young prospects having joined Italian side Cagliari in 2017 after turning down an approach from Liverpool.

Han became the first North Korean to score in Europe’s top five leagues with a goal in only his second appearance for Cagliari.

The forward joined Juventus on loan but spent just four months in their reserve team before he was sold to Qatari side Al-Duhail for €7 million (£5.8m) in January 2020.

Han impressed for Al-Duhail, scoring five goals in 16 appearances and helped the club win the Qatar Stars League later that year.

But his career came crashing to a halt after United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions prevented North Koreans from working overseas due to concerns that their salary was being transferred to support Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and weapons programmes.

Han Kwang-song impressed during his time in Italy but his career came to a halt in 2020 (NurPhoto via Getty)

Han made his final appearance for Al-Duhail in August 2020 before his contract was terminated and he was deported from Qatar.

Han, however, was left stranded and unable to return to his homeland as North Korea had sealed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s understood that Han ended up returning to Italy to live in a North Korean embassy but he was unable to sign for another team due to UNSC sanctions.

After three years on the sidelines, Han has finally made his return to football as he started in North Korea’s 1-0 defeat to Syria last Thursday.

He then scored his first international goal in four years on Tuesday as North Korea ran out 6-1 winners over Myanmar in their second World Cup qualifier.

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