Thailand will host an Asian Cup qualifying match between Malaysia and North Korea next month, Asia’s football governing body announced on Tuesday, after the match was postponed three times over a diplomatic row and security concerns.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement that it had picked Thailand to serve as a neutral venue for the two-part qualifier, scheduled for Nov. 10 and Nov. 13, but it had yet to confirm an exact venue and kick-off times.
“We are extremely grateful for the continued support by the Football Association of Thailand in agreeing to play host for these two matches,” AFC General Secretary Windsor Paul John said in the statement.
The first leg of the match was originally scheduled for March 28 in Pyongyang, but it was postponed repeatedly as a result of a diplomatic clash between Malaysia and North Korea following the Feb. 13 assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, at a Kuala Lumpur area airport.
The Pyongyang leg was postponed a third time in late September after Malaysia banned its citizens from travelling to the North Korean capital, citing heightened security concerns on the Korean Peninsula.
In Tuesday’s statement, the AFC said that the Thai Football Association confirmed its willingness to serve as a neutral host Malaysia and North Korea, which will be vying for a berth in the 2019 Asian Cup tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
The AFC said North Korea would represent the “home” side for the Nov. 10 match and the “visiting” side in the second leg three days later.
Hamidin Mohd. Amin, Malaysia’s Football Association (FAM) secretary-general, told BenarNews on Tuesday that choosing Thailand as event host was the best decision for the two nations playing in the two-part qualifier.
“Thailand is close to Malaysia and North Korea plus the weather and condition of the pitch is pretty similar to both countries,” he said.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.