Asian final moved to Malaysia after blacked-out Pyongyang game


Kuala Lumpur - The final of an Asian tournament originally due to take place in Pyongyang has been moved to Malaysia, football officials said Friday, after North and South Korea last week played a surreal match in an empty stadium.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said the AFC Cup match between North Korea's 4.25 SC and Al Ahed from Lebanon would take place in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on November 4.

It came just days after the AFC announced the final of Asia's second-tier club competition was being shifted from Pyongyang to Shanghai, and that it would be played on November 2.

The football body gave no reason for changing the venue of the match again but apologised for "the unavoidable inconvenience".

Announcing the first change of venue earlier this week, the AFC did not mention the World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang but said that commercial partners had warned of challenges in broadcasting the game.

Last week's match -- a historic encounter between two countries still technically at war -- took place with no live broadcast and no foreign media in attendance, and with FIFA president Gianni Infantino one of just a handful of spectators.

Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min described the game, which ended 0-0, as "very aggressive" and one South Korean official likened it to warfare.

The debacle raised doubts over the prospects for further North-South sporting cooperation, once a driver of nuclear diplomacy.

The match came after a series of North Korean missile tests raised tensions in the region, and followed the breakdown of talks with the US over Pyongyang's weapons programmes.

Malaysia and North Korea traditionally had relatively warm ties but they have been strained since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017.

Kim Jong Nam, once seen as heir apparent to the North's leadership, died in agony after having his face smeared with a banned nerve agent as he waited for a flight.

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