Malaysian football fans were sent into a frenzy upon receiving news that the Harimau Malaya squad will have to travel to North Korea after all for their 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers fixture.
Malaysia was initially scheduled to face North Korea in Pyongyang on the 28th of March for the Asian Cup fixture.
However, the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, brother of Kim Jong Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the 13th of February resulted in the match being postponed — due to concerns of national security.
After the incident, the fixture was postponed to the 8th of June. Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) then submitted multiple requests to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to shift the match to a neutral venue, fearing the safety of our football players.
After weeks of waiting, AFC finally unveiled the verdict: Harimau Malaya will be required to travel to North Korea for the match after all, there will be no neutral venue.
The decision was made after AFC received confirmation from FAM that no government travel ban is in place, and thus there should be no problem with Malaysia travelling to North Korea for the match.
Although Harimau Malaya have received green light from the Youth and Sports minister, Khairy Jamaluddin to travel to North Korea, safety concerns are still ubiquitous among football players and football fans.
“AFC have spoken, we have to play in North Korea, and they have given assurance for our safety.” Malaysian forward Safee Sali told HMetro.
“Even with the assurance given, we are still worried. We can only hope that AFC takes our safety concerns seriously.” he added.
Apart from that, the PKNS FC forward also said that time constraints could be an issue when they fly back and face Lebanon at home just 5 days later.
“As players, we have to always be ready, there is no running away. It’s going to be tough because we have a short amount of time to prepare, and we will be facing two strong teams consecutively.” Safee Sali said.
“But of course, we aim to give our best and bring back that one point.” the 33-year-old added.