Wigan Warriors back in news thanks to North Korea museum
The bizarre story of a Wigan Warriors shirt being among a remarkable and diverse collection of gifts spotted in a North Korea museum - first reported by Wigan Today in 2015 - has resurfaced in this weekend's national press.
The Sunday Mirror newspaper today reported on an exclusive eight-day visit to the highly-secretive country.
And a Warriors shirt was among an “astonishing collection of disturbing artefacts” found in the International Friendship Exhibition, which was built by current leader Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung.
The museum - 100 miles away from capital Pyongyang - has more than 100,000 pieces from around the world.
A signed Warriors rugby league jersey and ball were sent in 2014 by the UK arm of the Friends of North Korea, the newspaper reported.
It added: “The jersey sits alongside stuffed bears and gifts from Joseph Stalin, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin.”
The story prompted some fans to discuss on social media the most unusual sightings of rugby league shirts - WWE wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts once appeared in the ring in a Wigan away shirt (see tweet, inset).
There are strong links between Wigan and the country thanks largely to Dylan Harris of Lupine Travel - based on King Street - who offer ‘affordable tours to unique destinations’ such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Chernobyl, Turkmenistan and Somaliland.
In September 2015, Harris told the Wigan Observer: “The building is about a two hour drive away from the capital Pyongyang and I have been there about 10 times before as it houses presents given to his father Kim Jong Il and his grandfather Kim Jong Sung.
“But on this visit they had built an extension to house the presents given to Kim Jong Un.
“I walked in and the irst thing I saw was Dennis Rodman’s basketball shirt from when he visited a few years ago and then I looked over and there was a Wigan Warriors shirt and the signed ball.
“I really couldn’t believe. I actually had to rub my eyes. It is definitely the most bizarre thing I have ever seen.
“There was only the basketball shirt, a signed ball from Pelé and then this shirt that were related to sport.”
Harris said that no one at the centre knew where the git had come from but there was a plaque explaining that the shirt and ball were from UK Korean Friendship Association.
And after contacting the association back in 2015, it was revealed that the shirt was given to Kim Jong Un by Peter Twigg, an active member of the KFA and media salesman.
He said: “I visited North Korea last year with a group of delegates and had the option of taking a git that represents where you come from or what you do for a living.
“I wanted to give something that he wouldn’t already have so I asked the club if they would provide a signed shirt and ball for me to take.
“The git obviously went down well because I was invited to meet a deputy minister as a result.
“I also gave some brochures from the 2013 season when they won the double and a leaflet that we give to advertises that explains the fan base and the club’s reach. “The reason I took them is because Wigan Warriors is the most famous rugby club in the world and I wanted to take something that was linked to the North West. “Although I don’t live in Wigan I would consider myself a fan.”