KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s football chief on Thursday said he was worried about players being deliberately poisoned if their controversial Asian Cup qualifier goes ahead in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim called for the game to be moved to a neutral venue, saying he was concerned over the players’ safety.
The match, which was postponed during a furious diplomatic row over the murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother in Malaysia, has been rescheduled to June 8.
“Truthfully, I would like the match to be played at a neutral venue for the sake of the players’ safety,” Tunku Ismail posted on the FAM’s Facebook page.
“I’m also very concerned about the safety assurance regarding the accommodation provided and the food. According to the information I have received, we need to bring our own food due to the possibility of sabotage.”
The killing of Kim Jong Nam – the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – in February sparked a diplomatic row which saw both countries banning each other’s citizens from leaving, and withdrawing their ambassadors.
South Korea accuses the North of masterminding the murder, which was carried out using a towel soaked with nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian police have named several North Korean suspects.
Despite the tensions, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced this week that the game would go ahead on June 8 after Malaysia confirmed it had eased travel restrictions.
The Malaysian football body has lodged an appeal against the decision which is being considered by the AFC.
“Another big concern is the issue of refereeing because if there are decisions going against the North Koreans, there is the possibility that the safety of match officials will be affected and that will surely put them under pressure,” Tunku Ismail added in his statement.
Malaysia may forfeit the game 3-0 if they refuse to play in what is their first fixture in the 2019 Asian Cup’s final round of qualifying.