Malaysia-North Korea match to be played in June

New Straits Times - - Sport -

NORTH Korea have been given un­til April 14 to pro­pose a neu­tral venue for the post­poned Asian Cup Qual­i­fy­ing Group B match against Malaysia — now to be played on June 8 — five days be­fore the na­tional team host Le­banon in Kuala Lumpur.

The match was orig­i­nally sched­uled in Py­ongyang on March 28 but the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC) post­poned it following the es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion over the as­sas­si­na­tion of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13.

How­ever, the match could still be played in Py­ongyang on June 8 if the diplo­matic sit­u­a­tion be­tween both coun­tries re­turns to nor­mal.

AFC said North Korea must pro­pose a neu­tral venue and also pro­vide se­cu­rity and en­try (visa) guar­an­tees, along with the fi­nan­cial agree­ment with the coun­try host­ing the match to the Asian body.

“We picked June 8 as it is the only Fifa date avail­able be­fore match day two on June 13. We have in­formed the North Korea FA (NKFA) over propos­ing a neu­tral venue in any Asian coun­try,” said AFC gen­eral-sec­re­tary Datuk Wind­sor Paul at AFC head­quar­ters in Bukit Jalil yes­ter­day.

“North Korea will likely pro­pose a coun­try which they have diplo­matic re­la­tions with. The tour­na­ment’s match se­quence can­not be changed for sport­ing and rank­ing rea­sons. The first match of the tour­na­ment can­not be played af­ter the sec­ond match. The match also can­not be played out­side the Fifa dates as clubs will not re­lease their play­ers.

“NKFA have been given un­til April 14 to pro­pose a neu­tral venue. We al­ways make de­ci­sions on a match 30 days prior over the ap­point­ments of ref­er­ees and of­fi­cials

“And so, if things do not get okay be­tween both coun­tries by May 8 then the match will re­main at the neu­tral ground. If ev­ery­thing is back to nor­mal by then, the match will be played ac­cord­ing to the ini­tial home-and-away un­der­stand­ing with the match on June 8 hosted in Py­ongyang.”

Wind­sor said if North Korea are un­able to find a neu­tral venue, then AFC will look for one.

FAM were in­structed by the Malaysian gov­ern­ment to not send the na­tional team to Py­ongyang on March 6 for the Asian Cup Qual­i­fy­ing match due to se­cu­rity con­cerns.

AFC made the de­ci­sion to post­pone the match on March 10 and a let­ter was sent to NKFA three days later re­quest­ing them to pro­pose a neu­tral venue for the game resched­uled to June 8.

With two Asian Cup Qual­i­fy­ing matches now to be held dur­ing Ra­madan, na­tional coach Ong Kim Swee will have to re-struc­ture his pro­gramme to pre­pare for the chal­lenge. The Fifa win­dow is be­tween June 5-13.

Malaysia were fi­nal­is­ing terms to play China on June 7 but the match will now have to be can­celled.

“My plans will not change as I ini­tially wanted to play a friendly match ahead of the Asian Cup Qual­i­fier against Le­banon on June 13.

“How­ever, we may have an is­sue with trav­el­ling if the match against North Korea is played in Py­ongyang on June 8 or other coun­tries out­side the re­gion as we need to travel two or three days ahead.

“I will def­i­nitely call up my play­ers ear­lier following the change of the Asian Cup Qual­i­fy­ing sched­ule,” said Kim Swee. Ajitpal Singh

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