Tokyo, April 30, Kyodo/OANA/IRNA -- Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi wants Japan's upcoming World Cup qualifier against North Korea to be played in Malaysia after FIFA decided that the match will be played at a neutral venue.
Soccer's world governing body ordered North Korea to play the June 8 qualifier behind closed doors at a yet-to-be decided neutral ground after crowd trouble marred their 2-0 defeat to Iran in Pyongyang on March 30.
"Malaysia would be best place," said Kawabuchi, adding that he does not want the game to be played in China, where there has been recent wave of anti-Japan demonstrations.
"I feel that there would be a problem playing it in China given the circumstances and we would object if there were moves being made to play it there." Japan's dramatic victory over Iran in Johor Bahru in 1997 in a playoff for a berth at the 1998 World Cup and the Asian Football Confederation's headquarters being located in Kuala Lumpur are thought to be the reasons why Kawabuchi hopes the game will be played in Malaysia.
North Korea's punishment came after North Korean fans, incensed by the late sending-off of Nam Song Chol, showered the pitch with rocks, bottles and chairs.
A mob of thousands stopped the Iranian players from leaving outside the stadium after the match, requiring police to restore order.
Kawabuchi expressed surprise at the severity of the punishment but said he thought it was reasonable that the match should be played behind closed doors.
"Even in a neutral country the stadium would still be packed with Japan supporters if fans were allowed in. It would be like a home game so I think it's reasonable that fans will be shut out." Appeals again st FIFA's decision must be lodged within three days, but Kawabuchi believes North Korea should not challenge the ruling.
"It's a harsh penalty but I think North Korea must put up with it and cooperate for the sake of the development of soccer in east Asia.
"You can't put the players and referees in danger. The decision has been made because they (the North Koreans) can't be relied upon to guarantee security however much they say they will tighten it so it can't be helped." North Korea midfielder An Yong Hak, who plays for J-League club Nagoya Grampus Eight, said he was disappointed with the FIFA ruling but insisted that it would not affect the team's motivation.
"I think it is a very harsh punishment and too be perfectly honest I am very disappointed," said An, who has played in all three of North Korea's qualifiers.
"It wasn't like people rioted (at the Iran game) and the Japan match would have given North Korea the chance to prove that it could hold the game in safety.
"But even without any fans it's still a World Cup qualifier and there is no chance of our motivation dropping." The outbreak of violence in Pyongyang in the Iran game had further heightened security fears ahead of Japan's politically charged match away to the North Koreans.
In a February 9 home match against North Korea, Japan mobilized more than 3,000 police and private security guards at Saitama Stadium, north of Tokyo. The match passed without incident.
The game went ahead amid political tensions between the two countries as public pressure mounted for the Japanese government to slap economic sanctions on North Korea in a bid to force it to come clean on its abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
The North has all but blown its chances of making its first World Cup finals appearance since surprisingly reaching the quarterfinals in 1966 after three defeats out of three matches in Group B.
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