KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 (Bernama) — The 2019 Asia Cup final round qualifier between North Korea and Malaysia will be played on June 8 this year.
AFC secretary-general Datuk Windsor Paul announced the new date decided by the AFC competition committee at a media briefing today.
“On March 13, we sent a letter to North Korea, saying that based on the principle of match sequence and to be played on the FIFA window, match between North Korea and Malaysia will be played on June 8.
“We should play on the FIFA date, failing which the players will not be released by the club. And the date before the second match scheduled on June 13, is only on June 8,” he said.
He also noted that host North Korea have been given a month’s time to propose a neutral venue for the match.
“We were also informed that North Korea need to provide a neutral venue. We have given them (North Korea) until April 14 to come back with a neutral venue, in the event the (current) diplomatic situation is not solved.
“Not just giving us the name of the neutral venue, but North Korea should guarantee the security and travel visa at the new venue, especially for players, media, officers and also football fans.
“If North Korea is not able to find a neutral venue, AFC will decide the venue for them by May 8,” he said.
He added that if the neutral venue had been chosen for the first match for the sporting reason, the second match between North Korea and Malaysia would also be played at the neutral venue.
The Harimau Malaysia squad led by Datuk Ong Kim Swee was originally scheduled to face North Korea in the Group B opening match for the qualifying Asian Cup 2019 at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in the country’s capital, Pyongyang.
However, due to diplomatic tensions following the assassination of the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-nam at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) on Feb 13, the Malaysian Government had prohibited Harimau Malaysia from playing in that country due to security reasons.
Following that, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) on Monday had requested AFC to change the venue to a neutral ground.
The situation worsened subsequently, when the Malaysian Government also banned North Koreans in Malaysia from leaving the country, after North Korea barred 11 Malaysians from leaving that country.