AFC, Malaysia await North Korea decision on moving qualifier venue

ESPN FC By ESPN staff Share Tweet about an hour ago AFC, Malaysia await North Korea decision on moving qualifier venue

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts ask if Malaysia were right to request a neutral venue for their fixture with North Korea.
ESPN FC's Yasmin Abdol Hamid and John Wilkinson break down Singapore's and Malaysia's groups for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

The Asian Football Confederation will give North Korea the right to choose the venue for their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia on March 28, if the Asian body rules out playing in Pyongyang due to security concerns.

The Football Association of Malaysia sent a letter to AFC on Monday, requesting the game to be played at a neutral venue, citing security concerns following a deteriorating relationship between the two nations.

This came after the Malaysian government ejected North Korea's ambassador from the country, following the death of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of the Republic's leader Kim Jong-Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

"The decision of the venue will depend on North Korea if the match is shifted from Pyongyang to a neutral ground," AFC general secretary Datuk Windsor Paul John told Utusan Online.

Malaysia's Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also backed the decision not to send the national team to play in Pyongyan, leaving the matter with the Kuala Lumpur-based AFC.

Malaysia Youth and Sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin says he is confident that AFC will make the right decision about the venue for the qualifier.

"The government has the right to advice sports associations on security assessment issues… this is not a case of government interference," said Khairy.

"AFC has received FAM's appeal letter for the match to be played on a neutral ground. I am confident that they will understand the situation and make the best decision. But they will first have to convey our request to North Korea and see what they have to say."

The AFC is expected to make a final decision by Thursday, with several Chinese cities reportedly being considered as neutral venues.

The change of plans will, however, not affect the preparation of the national team who are due to report for centralised training on March 13.

Apart from North Korea, Malaysia will also play Lebanon and Hong Kong in Group B of the third-round qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates.

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