Malaysia to play North Korea in Pyongyang

SHAH ALAM: Malaysia will have to play their 2019 Asia Cup Group B qualifying match against North Korea in Pyongyang on Oct 5, according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Secretary-General Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the AFC had decided to schedule the match in Pyongyang since North Korea had played against Lebanon on Sept 5, without any security threat.

“We will follow the directive from AFC. I have discussed the matter with AFC Secretary-General Datuk Windsor Paul John and thus far the venue is safe for us. We in the FAM have planned to play in North Korea and later head straight to Hong Kong.

“FAM President Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has given his consent,” Datuk Hamidin told reporters after announcing the list of players for the Busan International Beach Soccer Championship in South Korea.

However, the AFC would continue to monitor the situation and safety factors in North Korea because any threat to security would result in a change of venue.

The match was initially scheduled for March 28, in Pyongyang and was later postponed to June 8, following a strained diplomatic relationship between North Korea and Malaysia, after the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s premier Kim Jong-un, at KLIA2 on Feb 13, 2017.

The match was once again postponed to Oct 5, just five days before a match against Hong Kong on Oct 10.

Malaysia, who opened their 2019 AFC qualifying campaign with a 1-2 loss to Lebanon on June 13 at Larkin Stadium, before holding Hong Kong to a 1-1 draw at Hang Jebat Stadium on Sept 5, are at the bottom of Group B with one point.

Lebanon is at the top the group with seven points, followed by North Korea and Hong Kong.

With four matches remaining, Malaysia need to finish among the top two teams in the group to qualify for the 2019 Asia Cup, held in the United Erab Emirates from Jan 5 to Feb 1, 2019. — Bernama