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World Cup qualifier moved after NKorean objections

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 21 Aug 2008

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The venue for a football World Cup qualifier between North and South Korea has been moved from Pyongyang after the North refused to let the South play its national anthem and fly its flag at the game.

The sport’s world governing body FIFA announced late Wednesday that the venue for the September 10 game has been changed to Shanghai with the agreement of both national football associations.

It gave no reason but a qualifier in March was also switched from Pyongyang to Shanghai because of the flag and anthem dispute. It ended in a goalless draw.

The second inter-Korean fixture was held in Seoul on June 22, at which the communist North was allowed to play its own anthem and display its flag. The game again ended 0-0.

FIFA regulations authorise visiting teams to use their anthem and flag in away games.

But inter-Korean relations have been frosty since conservative President Lee Myung-Bak took office in Seoul in February and vowed to take a firmer line with the North.

Ties turned even chillier after the July 11 fatal shooting of a Seoul tourist in a mountain resort in the North.

Lee Won-Jae, a senior official of the (South) Korea Football Association, said they respected FIFA’s decision.

“The decision will not be favourable to the North Koreans because they after all gave up a scheduled game at home,” he told AFP. “They will also have to spend extra money for the trip.”

The two Koreas are scheduled to play another qualifier in Seoul on April 1, 2009.

They are in Group B, which also includes Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Two teams from each group will advance.

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