BANGKOK, Nov 5 — The North Koreans arrived here late last night for the AFC Asian Qualifier against Malaysia in Buriram, on November 10 and 13, eager to leave politics out of the sport and concentrate on collecting maximum points from the two encounters.
Though disappointed with the decision to play their home match in Thailand rather than in Pyongyang, their Norwegian manager Jorn Andersen said his players were pumped up for the match and would not allow politics to stand in their way and target of achieving good results.
“I don’t want politics and sports to mix together. We are sports and we are playing football. We have to take sports away (from politics) and have a fair match against Malaysia,” he told Bernama when met at the Suvarnabhumi Airport upon his arrival from Beijing, late last night.
The manager said the morale of his players was high and that they were ready for the task at hand.
The Malaysia-North Korea match was postponed for nine months since late March, as it fell victim to the souring diplomatic relations between the two countries as a result of February’s killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the KL International Airport (KLIA 2).
The matches also suffered due to the heightening tension in the Korean Peninsular, as a result of Pyongyang’s blatant missile tests.
The long-postponed Asian Cup Qualifier between the two countries will be staged at the i-Mobile Stadium, in Thailand’s northeast town of Buriram, located at between five to six hours drive from Bangkok.
Asked of his opinion of playing North Korea’s home match in Buriram rather than Pyongyang, Andersen said it was definitely a disadvantage for the team but they would have to adhere to the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision.
On his assessment of Nelo Vingada’s boys, Andersen said, his players must not take Malaysia lightly although their opponent currently sits at the bottom of the group.
“Malaysia is not a bad team although they are last in the group at the moment but they are always dangerous,” he said, adding that they did a video study on the Malaysian team in order to analyse their strengths and weaknesses.
“Our target is to grab the maximum six points from the two matches,” according to him, as he and other North Korean team officials swiftly whisked the players to their bus, destined for Nakhon Ratchasima which will be their base for several days.
The North Korean team will train in Nakhon Ratchasima, about two hours from Buriram to acclimatise the hot and humid weather in Thailand when preparing for the matches.
According to Andersen, the training session in Nakhon Ratchasima would be vital as it would help the players to adopt to Thailand’s climate compared with the current cold weather in North Korea.
“We came from North Korea to be based in (Nakhon Ratchasima) to prepare as well as we can, because in our country (the weather) is very cold right now. So we have five days to prepare for the matches,” he said. — Bernama