FAM APPEALS AGAINST PYONGYANG MATCH
FAM appeal to AFC to play Asian Cup qualifier on neutral ground
THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) are adamant the national team will not play an Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang next month due to security fears in the East Asian region after lodging an appeal to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
AFC announced on Monday that the match against North Korea, originally scheduled for March 28, would be played in Pyongyang on June 8.
However, FAM general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin is hopeful AFC will consider having the Group B qualifier for the 2019 Asian Cup played on a neutral ground.
“We sent in the appeal to AFC yesterday (Tuesday) evening,” said Hamidin in a text message from Manama, Bahrain where he is attending the AFC Congress.
When asked what chance of FAM’s appeal succeeding, Hamidin replied “Fiftyfifty.”
Diplomatic relations between the Malaysia and North Korea were strained over the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam – the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un – at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.
Both countries temporarily banned each other’s citizens from leaving and withdrew their ambassadors but a travel ban to Pyongyang was lifted in late March after a deal was struck involving the return of Kim’s body to North Korea.
With travel restrictions no longer in place, AFC decided the match, the first for both Malaysia and North Korea in Group B, will take place in Pyongyang.
AFC secretary-general Datuk Windsor Paul John said AFC will look into the appeal but held out little hope that the decision will be changed.
“FAM cited the security situation in the region” as the basis of their appeal, Windsor said in a text toTimesport from Manama.
On Tuesday, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin referred to tensions surrounding the East Asian region in wanting assurance for the safety of the national team in travelling to Pyongyang.
Hamidin earlier expressed a preference for the match to be held on neutral ground but Windsor added that FAM have little justification in seeking a neutral venue with a travel ban no longer in place.
The travel issue aside, the national team’s preparation has also been hamstrung by the absence of a national chief coach since the removal of Ong Kim Swee by new FAM president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
With less than a month to go before facing North Korea, FAM are still interviewing candidates for the national coach position while former Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe is waiting for FAM to present him a contract before taking up his post as national assistant coach.