Tak­ing on North Korea in Pyongyang

New Straits Times - - Sport -

THE Asian Cup qual­i­fier be­tween North Korea and Malaysia will be played in Pyongyang, the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC) an­nounced yes­ter­day, de­spite strained ties over an as­sas­si­na­tion in Kuala Lumpur.

The killing of Kim Jong-Nam — the es­tranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim JongUn — in Fe­bru­ary sparked a diplomatic row which saw both coun­tries ban­ning each other’s citizens from leav­ing and with­draw­ing their am­bas­sadors.

The AFC said the match would take place in the North Korean cap­i­tal on June 8 af­ter Malaysian foot­ball of­fi­cials con­firmed there were no longer any travel re­stric­tions.

Malaysia had orig­i­nally been due to play the match in Pyongyang on March 28 as a leadup to the 2019 tour­na­ment in the United Arab Emi­rates.

But Malaysian of­fi­cials at the time banned the team from play­ing in Pyongyang, cit­ing se­cu­rity fears, and the AFC de­cided to post­pone the tie due to “es­ca­lat­ing diplomatic ten­sion.”

The travel ban was lifted in late March af­ter a deal was struck in­volv­ing the re­turn of Kim’s body to North Korea.

The AFC had at that time said the match could take place at a neu­tral venue. AFP

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