Malaysian football fans and players have expressed their dissatisfaction upon receiving news that the Harimau Malaya squad will have to travel to North Korea after all for their 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers fixture.
The fixture was initially schedule on the 28th of March in Pyongyang, but has been postpone to the 8th of June — upon the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, brother of Kim Jong Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the 13th of February.
Concerns of national security and the escalating tension between the two nations drove the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to appeal for a neutral venue.
However, the Asian Football Confederation has ordered Malaysia to fly to Pyongyang anyway, since no travel ban has been imposed by the Malaysian government to North Korea.
The president of FAM, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has slammed the government for failing to handle this matter.
In a statement released on FAM’s Facebook page, the FAM president made it clear that he is not happy about the Harimau Malaya squad traveling to North Korea.
“As president of FAM, I view things very seriously when it comes to the safety of our national players and officials. So this being the case, it is difficult for me to allow the players and officials to travel to Pyongyang.” the president said.
“However, to date the government has not issued a travel ban, just a travel advisory, and that is not a strong enough reason for AFC to switch the original match venue to a neutral one.” he added.
Tunku Ismail added that if he does not allow Malaysia to travel to North Korea, North Korea will be awarded a 3-0 win. Apart from that, Malaysia will also be slapped with a US$50,000 and will be eliminated from the qualifying stages of the Asian Cup.
He also expressed concerns that this might result in Malaysia being disqualified from all future AFC matches.
“As President of FAM, I am definitely not in favour of the team travelling to North Korea, but ultimately the final decision rests with our government and the Sports Ministry.”
“For me, the safety of the Malaysian people is of the utmost importance. We must always put the people’s safety first no matter the situation. This is what the Malaysian government and our football fans want above all else.”
KJ, what say you?
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