On Monday, the Korean Central News Agency reported that longtime leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, had "passed away from great mental and physical strain" on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Known as "Dear Leader," Kim took over rule of the reclusive nation upon his father's death in 1994. In the ensuing years, Kim had proven one of the most enigmatic figures on the world stage, alarming world leaders with his focus on militarization and nuclear armament. While information trickled out of North Korea only sporadically -- and generally at the control of the state -- Kim was "reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine," according to his AP obituary.
He was also reported to be quite the accomplished sportsman.
According to various reports emanating from Pyongyang, Kim shot perhaps the greatest round of golf in the sport's history in 1994. Some accounts maintain that he shot 11 holes-in-one on an 18-hole course while others state that he merely sunk 5 holes-in-one while shooting a staggering 38-under par, 34 at the 7,700-yard Pyongyang Golf Course. Oh, it was also his first time ever playing.
Sound to good to be true? Well, for any skeptics, there were reportedly 17 bodyguards on hand to verify every last stroke. To be fair to others, Kim immediately retired from the sport. Undoubtedly, Tiger Woods thanks him.
This potentially epic round of golf was far from Kim's only dalliance with athletics. He also reportedly played a key role in the management and coaching of the North Korean soccer team during the 2010 World Cup. After a surprisingly solid performance in a 2-1 loss to the heavily-favored Brazilians in the opening game, the North Korean coach revealed that he received tactical advice -- even during matches -- from Kim.
North Korean manager Kim Jong-Hun claimed he got "regular tactical advice during matches" from Kim. As if it was not unprecedented enough for a head of state to be doling out soccer advice in real time, the coach claimed to receive the assistance "using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye." The inventor of this clandestine technology? None other than the North Korean leader.
Emboldened by the stout showing against Brazil, North Korea televised the subsequent match live against Portugal. It turned out to be a poor decision as North Korea was throttled by Portugal, 7-0. It was speculated that the team abandoned the coach's defensive tactics in favor of a more attack-oriented strategy favored by Kim. Aside from being largely ignored the state media, the loss triggered a public scolding of the team upon its return home.
Based on his golf exploits, the "Dear Leader" may have felt the team's fortunes would have been improved had he been wearing the No. 10 shirt.
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