KUALA LUMPUR: Uncertainty has increased around North Korea’s Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia.
A political storm over the killing of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport in February led to postponement of the March 28 tie in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
The Asian confederation asked the North Koreans to propose an alternative neutral venue for a rescheduled match on June 8. This met with silence from Pyongyang.
In a standard international sporting context the Malaysians refusal to play would be considered due cause for expulsion but the AFC stepped away from this option, out of its own political concerns.
The AFC has now confirmed that the North Korean federation did not propose a neutral venue by the due deadline of April 14. Hence the AFC itself “will now start discussions with potential member associations who can host the match.”
An AFC statement added: “The final decision on whether the match will be played at a neutral venue will be made on May 8, 2017, taking into consideration the political situation between the two countries especially with regard to the travel ban imposed by the Malaysian Government, which led to the postponement of the match originally scheduled for March 28, 2017.”
Clearly the AFC hopes that, in the meantime, the Malaysian government will give its football association tacit approval to play in North Korea in the hope that this may even help towards a reduction of tension between the two countries.