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South Korea: North Koreans withdraw from World Cup qualification


South Korean officials say North Korea has told the Asian Football Association that it will not be able to participate in World Cup qualifiers next month due to coronavirus concerns.

Kim Min-soo, an official with the Seoul-based Korean Football Association, said Tuesday that the Asian Football Association had asked North Korea to reconsider its decision. He said the north informed the AFC last week of its intention to call off the games.

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In South Korea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka will be played in Group H qualifiers from May 31 to June 15. The group matches will be played in Hubs due to delays in continental qualification for the 2022 World Cup due to the pandemic.

The North Korean Olympic Committee also said last month it had decided to cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect its athletes from coronavirus infections.

An official from the South Korean Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said Seoul still had hopes that the north would attend the World Cup qualifiers in South Korea and said that at a bad time it would be a rare opportunity for sports exchanges would offer bilateral relations.

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“We will wait until the AFC has completed its internal discussions and informed our government of the final result,” said the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity during a background briefing.

The north has ceased practically all cooperation with the south and has resumed testing of short-range weapons.

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