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North Korea cancels World Cup Qualifier with Japan

  • March 25, 2024
  • 2 min read
North Korea cancels World Cup Qualifier with Japan

North Korea has decided to “abruptly” cancel its 2026 World Cup qualifying match against Japan, leaving organisers in search of an alternative venue for the game. The Hermit Kingdom has decided a day before the two met in Tokyo for the first of their qualifier on Thursday, 21st March not to host the match at Kim Il-Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, scheduled for Tuesday, 25th March.

Japan won 1-0 in Tokyo on Thursday with Kozo Tashima, the president of the Japanese Football Association, telling reporters that the return fixture in Pyongyang would not be held.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) “unforeseen circumstances” as the reason for the game not going ahead.

“The decision, taken in consultation with FIFA and relevant stakeholders, comes after the AFC was informed on 20 March by the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] Football Association of the need to move the match to a neutral venue due to unavoidable circumstances,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The AFC has not given a reason for the cancellation, saying that tit would be left up to the relevant FIFA committees to determine the future of the fixture. Nikkei Asia reported that the match had been moved to an unannounced neutral venue. No date has been decided for the fixture yet.

The Kyodo news agency cited North Korean media reports regarding a “malignant infectious disease” in Japan. This is believed to be a potentially deadly form of streptococcal disease, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS).

Japanese experts say that cases of STSS may continue to spread with officials finding it difficult to identify the cause. Cases in 2024 are thought to exceed 2023’s “record number” following a highly virulent and infectious strain confirmed in Japan.

The match in Pyongyang would be the first international sports event held in North Korea since the covid pandemic. The regime had sealed its borders since 2020 and banned all foreign tourists.

North Korea has made two appearances at the World Cup, most recently in 2010 when they were knocked out in the group stages, and in 1966 when they made history by reaching the quarter finals before losing 5-3 to Portugal.

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