Hostages in Pyongyang: Surely AFC must move NK vs Malaysia to neutral venue?

Madness In The Last Few Weeks Between North Korea & Malaysia

Let’s look back at what has been happening. The assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korea (DPRK) leader Kim Jong-Un, has seen diplomatic tensions between DPRK and Malaysia escalate drastically in the past few weeks. As a result of the incident, North Koreans can no longer enter Malaysia visa-free.

North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol has been expelled due to his disparaging comments on Malaysia’s procedure surrounding the body of Jong-Nam.

North Korea then reacted by expelling the Malaysia ambassador to DPRK, Mohamad Nizam (Although he already left before that decision was made) and banned the 11 Malaysians who are still in the country from leaving.

Photo Credit: Channel News Asia

Malaysia countered by preventing any North Korean diplomats from leaving. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Malaysian government has ordered FAM not to send the national team to Pyongyang.

Surely the escalating tensions is a good enough reason to move the match to a neutral venue. But Asia Football Confederation (AFC) general-secretary, Datuk Windsor Paul John has something else to say.

What Exactly Did Windsor say?

Malaysia’s request to play their Asia Cup qualifying match against North Korea at a neutral venue is most likely in the hands of North Korean Football Association.

According to Sinar Harian, Windsor said North Korea has the right to decide if their home match against the Harimau Malaya will be played elsewhere.

However, Windsor said a decision will be made this week with the Match Committee discussing about the whole matter should DPRK insist to play the match at Pyongyang on March 28th.

Photo Credit: AFC

If that is not all, Windsor also said the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will need to provide more info about their request for a neutral venue.

“Our need for additional information is through the FAM. When they disclose all the info that is needed, only then we will make a decision,” said Windsor.

Windsor though reiterated that safety is the main priority for both teams.

A Neutral Venue, Please. 

We don’t know what other information the FAM has to provide to justify their request for a neutral venue. This is mind-boggling as it’s obvious why. On the brightside, at least the request is still on the table. We can respect that the AFC is listening to both sides before the decision is made. But this is the safety of the national team we’re talking about here.

North Korea banning the 11 Malaysians from leaving can be seen as a hostage situation, even though they did nothing wrong. This is a statement of war. So who is to say they might do the same thing to the national team and keep them there too?

Photo Credit: AFC

And AFC, let’s not forget. You signed an agreement with International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) to ensure safety and security in Asian football. You have to assess the current situation and must know that it’s unsafe for the national team to go to Pyongyang at this stage.

So please, AFC. Do the right thing and move the match to a neutral venue. As to the North Korean FA, leave the politics out of this when you’re mulling over if you want the match to be played in Pyongyang. The national team, let alone football, has nothing to do with the political tensions between your government and ours. Do not make this worse by getting football involved. Politics has no business in it.

As long as there is uncertainty about the safety of the country they’re hosting, the match must move to a neutral venue. It must and has to be as simple as that, no?

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