Confirmed: Govt blocks Harimau Malaysia from travelling to Pyongyang

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM)’s honorary secretary Dato’ Haji Hamidin Haji Mohd Amin has received orders from the Malaysian government to block the national football squad from flying to Pyongyang.

According to Dato’ Haji Hamidin Haji Mohd Amin, he received a call from Youth and Sports minister, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, who followed up with a letter from him head of secretary, Dato’ Lokman Hakim Ali, forbidding the national team from flying to North Korea.

FAM have also filed another request with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to play the match in a neutral venue.

Malaysia were scheduled to face North Korea in the Asian Cup qualifiers at the Kim Il Sung stadium on the 28th of March.

Just last week, Foreign Affairs minister, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman declared that Pyongyang is safe and that there should be no problem with Harimau Malaysia flying over to North Korea.

But in a press statement just released by FAM, it’s been confirmed that the national team will not be allowed to fly to Pyongyang for the Asia cup qualifiers. In fact, the government have also called for Harimau Malaysia to withdraw from the tournament due to safety concerns.

The assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the 13th of February has put a strain on the relationship between the two countries.

The Malaysia government’s decision to deport Kang Chol, Malaysia’s ambassador to North Korea last Saturday, has further made things worse. Therefore, based on the orders received, taking into account the safety of the national team and the current situation, Harimau Malaysia will not be allowed to fly to North Korea.

Dato’ Haji Hamidin Haji Mohd Amin also noted that he has contacted AFC’s honorary secretary, Dato’ Windsor John to get back to FAM the soonest he can on the request for a neutral venue, so they can proceed with the necessary preparations starting 13th of March.

So what does this mean for Malaysia?

The International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) has zero tolerance for government intervention when it comes to decision-making.

Since the government has vetoed FAM’s decision to allow Harimau Malaysia to play in North Korea, this could put Malaysia at the risk of facing a ban by FIFA, even though the veto is done in the national team’s best interest.

FAM did contact AFC to request for a venue change since early March, but they have not heard back from AFC. If AFC does not respond about the neutral ground, then the Malaysia government will have no choice but to step in because this is an issue of national security.

What they can do is, if this should lead to a ban-probe by FIFA, then our government will have to convince FIFA that their intervention is justified because it concerns the safety of the players.

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