Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president, the Tengku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said he does not agree that the national team should go to Pyongyang, North Korea for the 2019 Asia Cup Final Qualification Round on June 8.
Tunku Ismail said he viewed seriously the issue of security of the national players and FAM was in a difficult position to release them to play in the match due to the non-convincing situation in North Korea.
“As FAM president, I view the security of the national players very seriously, and in this situation, it is quite difficult for me to release them for the match in Pyongyang, North Korea. However, North Korea will get a free 3-0 win if FAM do not release Harimau Malaya for the match there.
“In addition, we will also be penalised up to USD50,000 and sacked from the qualifying cup competition in Asia. Of greater concern is the likelihood that we will be left out from any AFC competition in the future.
“The question is what should we do? Indeed, I want the match to be held at a neutral venue for the safety of the players,” he said in a statement issued by FAM today.
Tunku Ismail said he was worried over security, accommodation and food in North Korea as he was told by several coaches who had been there that the situation there was rather bad.
“I am also informed that we must bring our own food as there is the issue of sabotage.
“Another is the problem of the quality of refereeing. In the event a decision is not in favour of North Korea, the safety of the referee will be compromised and this will stress him out,” he said.
He said, to date, the Malaysian government had not banned the trip but only issued a travel advisory and it was not enough for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to change the match venue to a neutral one.
Although he does not agree that the national squad take the trip to Pyongyang, the decision is in the hands of the government and Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin.
“To me, the priority is the safety of Malaysians. We must decide to prioritise the safety of Malaysians and not decide based on the political situation. It all depends on what the Malaysian government and national football supporters want,” he said. – Bernama