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Rodman holds tryouts for North Korea match

Sunday, December 22, 2013

PYONGYANG - Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held tryouts on Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong Un's birthday next month — though he hasn't convinced all the Americans it's safe to come.

Rodman says plans for the January 8 game are moving ahead but some of the Americans he wants are afraid to come.

Some foreign analysts say the recent execution of Kim's uncle has cast doubt on the leader's future. But North Korean officials say there is no instability and Kim remains firmly in control.

"... I'm just telling them, you know, don't be afraid man. It's all love; it's all love here," Rodman said after the tryouts.

"I understand what's going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don't go into that venture. I'm just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much."

Rodman said he expected to announce the roster soon and was planning another game in June.

He watched a few dozen local players take to the court. He said each of the 12 he chose would get two new pairs of tennis shoes.

Asked why he liked basketball, North Korean player Kim Un Chol told Rodman he started playing because he was impressed by it on TV, and wanted to be good at it because it was a favourite of leader Kim and his late father, Kim Jong Il.