Malaysia-North Korea match to be played in June
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