Yemen football
Yemen had to endure a 13-hour boat trip to get out of the country and make it to a World Cup qualifierFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty

Yemen's football team have had to take to the sea to make a World Cup qualifying match with North Korea, as it is the only route out of their war torn country.

As Saudi Arabia continued to pound the country with air strikes on 4 June and rival rebel groups battled for control of the city of Aden, Yemen's national team boarded a boat for Djibouti, crossing a treacherous stretch of water that has already been braved by thousands of refugees since the war began.

In pictures posted on the Facebook page of Yemen's sports minister, Rafat Ali Al-Akhali‎, the team are seen on the deck of a squalid boat somewhere in the Mandeb Strait. Yemen coach Amin Al-Sanini told Yemeni media the trip would take 13 hours and it was the only way the players could get out of the country.

Saudi Arabia has imposed a blockade on the country since it intervened when Shia Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sana'a, and Saudi-backed president Abdrabbuh Hadi fled the country for Riyadh. Hundreds have been killed in both air strikes and street battles between Hadi loyalists, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Houthi rebels.

Yemen 1
Yemen's football team and entourage on the boat from Yemen to DjiboutiFacebook

From Djibouti, the team will travel to Doha where they will meet with their Czech coach, Miroslav Soukup, and train for the match with North Korea on 11 June. Yemen then play the Philippines on 16 June. Bahrain and Uzbekistan are also in their group.

Even before the war, Yemen had played all of their home games since 2010 abroad because the country was not deemed safe enough for foreign sides to visit.

In 2010, the country hosted the Gulf Cup of Nations, which is played between Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait and Yemen, but did not win a single game and crashed out having only scored one goal.

Ranked 165 in the world by Fifa, Yemen have never qualified for the World Cup but the team are confident that with an international manager, they stand a chance this time. Before the war began, the national side beat Pakistan 3-1 in a qualifier in Doha.

Most of Yemen's coaches have come from the Gulf but in 1977, former Crystal Palace and Wimbledon coach Alan Gillett managed the North Yemen national squad before the country was unified in 1990. Red Star Belgrade player Vladimir Petrovic also headed up the team for a brief period before quitting in May 2014.