October 20 – The search for a suitable venue for the Asian Cup qualifier between Malaysia and North Korea in November has been partially resolved with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirming the game will take place on neutral ground – without for the moment saying where.
The AFC was twice forced to delay the match in Pyongyang because of geo-political tensions on the Korean peninsula and then had to scrap the rescheduled October 5 date with a third postponement following the Malaysian government’s imposition of a travel ban to North Korea.
Malaysia is one of North Korea’s few remaining diplomatic partners but relations soured after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother Kim Jong-nam was mysteriously killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport in February. That was when the original fixture between the countries was first postponed.
In the interests of fair play, the AFC said the corresponding “home” fixture in Malaysia would also be switched to the same neutral venue.
“In the interests of competition fairness, it has been decided that both matches between the two countries will be played at the same neutral venue,” the AFC said in a statement. North Korea’s ‘home’ match will take place on November 10 and the return fixture – Malaysia’s ‘home’ game – three days later, it added.
AFC general secretary Dato’ Windsor John said: “We are pleased that the two Member Associations, after much discussion, have been agreeable to this arrangement. Playing the games in this way, and in this order, helps us protect the sporting principles of the Asian Cup final qualifying round.”
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