|Former American basketball star Dennis Rodman and his fellow players take training for an exhibition game against the DPRK team on January 8, 2014. (Xinhua/AP Photo)
PYONGYANG, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman celebrated the birthday of Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), here Wednesday by taking part in a friendship basketball game with fellow players, witnesses said.
Before the match, Rodman said, despite some people doubting the purpose of his visit, he simply came to celebrate his good friend's birthday. He also said he did feel the love and enthusiasm the DPRK people have for their leader.
He then sang "happy birthday to you" in front of Kim, creating a buzz among the audience.
Rodman arrived here on Monday for his fourth trip within a year, along with a team of retired NBA basketball players and streetballers, for the exhibition game to mark Kim's birthday, believed to be his 31st.
The first half ended in a 39-47, with former NBA stars in blue against DPR Korean players in red. Rodman himself also played in the first quarter. He then changed clothes and joined Kim on the stadium platform, chatting and smoking together while enjoying the game.
The second half were played between mixed white team and green team. With exchanging five American and DPR Korean players in each team, it ended in 63-54. The Sports Minister Kang Chong Mu and Rodman respectively presented trophy and souvenir medal to the players.
Pyongyang citizens and sportsmen, as well as foreign diplomats and representatives from international organizations were invited to watch the game. Foreign journalists were not invited to cover the U.S. delegation's trip.
Until now, local media have not given coverage of Rodman's fourth visit, and have shown no special program nor articles celebrating Kim's birthday, which has not set as a national holiday yet.
Rodman has met Kim for third time within one year. He described Kim as "an awesome guy" on his first trip to the country in February last year, and referred to Kim as his "friend for life" in September. But he failed to meet Kim last December on his third trip to help train the country's national basketball team for this time's exhibition game.
"Whatever he (Kim) does political-wise, that's not my job. I'm just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world," Rodman said at Beijing's capital airport on Monday.
"Mr. Rodman is not there representing the United States," the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
The NBA basketball league also distanced itself from Rodman. "The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.
Ex-NBA star defends controversial visit to DPRK
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Former American basketball star Dennis Rodman on Tuesday defended his contentious trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), saying it was a "great idea for the world."
Talking to CNN in an interview from Pyongyang, Rodman reacted belligerently to questions about the trip to DPRK with a group of retired National Basketball Association (NBA) players, claiming it could help "open the door" to the Asian nation.Full story
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Photos >>> Ex-NBA star Rodman on 4th trip to DPRK
Former NBA star Rodman visits DPRK for Kim birthday match
PYONGYANG, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) star Dennis Rodman has arrived here for his fourth trip within a year to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Rodman, along with a team of retired professional basketball players, is reportedly in the capital for an exhibition game on Wednesday to mark the birthday of DPRK's top leader, Kim Jong Un. Full story