Malaysia vs. North Korea Asian Cup qualifier postponed again by AFC
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier between North Korea and Malaysia was postponed for a third time on Thursday after Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel ban on its citizens visiting the Republic.
The Group B match was due to be played on Oct. 10, having previously been scheduled for March 28 and June 8.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hereby informs the public that all Malaysians are banned from travelling to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [North Korea] until further notice," read a Facebook statement from Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"This decision is taken in view of the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and related developments arising from missile tests. The travel ban will be reviewed once the situation has returned to normal."
Following the declaration, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) issued a statement confirming the travel ban.
"The AFC has today [Thursday] been informed by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) that the Malaysia Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel ban on Malaysian nationals visiting DPR Korea," it said.
"In light of this information, the AFC has postponed the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 final qualifying round Group B match between DPR Korea and Malaysia, which was scheduled to be played in Pyongyang on Oct. 5. The AFC will now refer the matter to the appropriate committees to decide on the future status of this match."
The match was initially postponed in March due to escalating tensions between the two nations after the death of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.
It was rescheduled for a second time in May after the AFC deemed traveling to North Korea a safety risk.
But the Asian body gave the all-clear earlier this month after Lebanon played in Pyongyang in an incident-free Asian Cup qualifier.
The North Korea government had also given Malaysia safety assurances for the match, even granting the FAM's Johor Crown Prince president (TMJ) airspace for direct travel to Pyongyang, instead of via transit.
The Malaysia squad were scheduled to leave for North Korea on Oct. 3, via Singapore and Beijing.
Malaysia's Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada, who has failed to win any of his four games in charge, will now focus on the Asian Cup qualifier away to Hong Kong on Oct. 10.
The Malaysians are bottom of Group B with one point, while North Korea are in second spot on two points, with both nations having played two games.
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