FAM: Malaysian team will not play in North Korea

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Government has barred the national football team from playing North Korea in Pyongyang due to security reasons.

Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee's men are due to kick off their Asian Cup Group B campaign against North Korea at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang on March 28. The other teams in the group are Hong Kong and Lebanon.

In a statement Monday, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin (pic) said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had informed them about the Cabinet's decision not to allow the team to play the match in Pyongyang.

"We received a letter from Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman last Thursday saying that the match venue is safe.

"However, the Government's decision to expel North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol last Saturday has made it unsafe for Malaysians to travel to North Korea," said Hamidin.

He added that FAM had written to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to request that the match be played at a neutral venue.

"I have contacted (AFC) general secretary Datuk Windsor Paul who is in Cambodia on the matter and have asked them for swift a resolution on the match venue so that Harimau Malaysia's itinerary can be planned smoothly," said Hamidin.

The national players will attend centralised training on March 13 and are scheduled to play a warm-up match against either the Philippines or a Chinese club in Beijing or Shanghai on March 22.