North Korea boycott women’s Olympic qualifiers as tit-for-tat geopolitics interfere

January 2 – Another political row as hit regional Asian football with North Korea withdrawing its women’s team from the final round of Olympic qualifiers being staged in South Korea in February.

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed the North had sent a letter informing it was pulling out of the tournament and that FIFA was also aware of the decision.

“The AFC can confirm that DPR Korea Football Association sent an official letter to withdraw from the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2020 Asian Qualifiers Final Round,” the AFC said in a statement

The third round of group stage matches will be held from February 3-9 in South Korea and China.

North Korea were drawn in Group A alongside hosts South Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar.

The top two teams from each group advance to a two-legged playoff in March.

North Korea hosted a historical but ultimately controversial men’s World Cup qualifier against South Korea last October. The match, which was later dubbed the ‘ghost derby’ after the North Koreans decided to ban media and spectators. According to South Korean players and officials, the 0-0 draw was played with an unnecessarily high level of physical and verbal abuse.

Tottenham striker Son Heung-min said post match: “It was hard to concentrate on the match because you were thinking about avoiding injury first. It’s a shame not to have won, but on the pitch it was so brutal that it’s an accomplishment that we returned from a game like that without injury.”

North Korea had. Later in October, been scheduled to host the AFC Cup 2019 Final between home side 4.25 SC and Al Ahed, from Lebanon, in Pyongyang. That final was eventually played in Malaysia with the AFC issuing a statement saying: “One of the key objectives in the AFC’s Vision and Mission is to foster development and promotion of football and to ensure the game is available to all in the Continent and beyond, which is also outlined in Article 2 of the AFC Statutes.

“In keeping with its objectives, the AFC, after careful consideration of the challenges affecting the commercial, broadcasting, media, accessibility and logistical arrangements, is compelled to assign the Final Match to be played in a neutral venue.”

For North Korea the move to pull the women’s team from Olympic qualification looks like a step towards football isolation again, following a period in early 2019 that looked as though political and sporting bridges with the South had been built on the back of a proposed joint bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. As that bid fell away, so relations look to have deteriorated both with the South and the wider football world.

Contact the writers of this story at moc.l1580332414labto1580332414ofdlr1580332414owedi1580332414sni@w1580332414ahsra1580332414w.wer1580332414dna1580332414 or [email protected]all.com


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