The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) President Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim yesterday slammed the government for allowing the national football team to fly to North Korea for their 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers match.
The relationship between the two countries has been tense ever since North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un’s brother got assassinated at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last February 13.
Fearing for safety of the players, FAM appealed to the Asian Football Confederation to change the match to a neutral venue. However, since no travel ban has been issued by the government, AFC declined the request for a neutral venue and ordered the Harimau Malaya to play in Pyongyang anyway.
“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.” the FAM president said in a statement yesterday.
When Youth and Sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin was asked to comment on the matter, he assured the public that he had contacted Wisma Putra on the matter and a decision would be announced soon.
However, the minister also explained that issuing a travel advisory or imposing a travel ban is not that easy – it may have severe consequences on the bilateral relations between the two countries.
“There are many things to be considered. The security of our people is a priority and it includes our team if we have to go there. We will not compromise on the security of our people.” the minister told Bernama.
“At the same time, any decision made should not affect our bilateral relations. So give a little bit more time to review the latest position as so far there is no official advice which does not encourage Malaysians in the form of a travel advisory. AFC only recognises the official travel advisory of the government,” he added.
Apart from that, Khairy Jamaluddin also said that he respects Tunku Ismail’s decision and concern, but the government has to evaluate the matter from various aspects before they can arrive at a decision.