The Australian federal government has decided to move an upcoming Under-19 match against North Korea to a neutral, offshore venue, citing opposition to the nation's nuclear program.
According to SBS' Rachida Yosufzai, the match was an Asian Football Confederation qualifier, set to take place on November 8 in Shepparton, Victoria. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the North Korean team will not travel to Australia.
"The government has decided to not allow the North Korean U19 soccer team to enter Australia for the Asian Football Confederation U19 Championship Qualifiers,” Bishop told SBS World News.
"Hosting the team would be contrary to the government's strong opposition to North Korea's illegal nuclear and missile development programs."
In a statement, Football Federation Australia expressed their displeasure at losing a home fixture:
"Football Federation Australia is disappointed that qualifying fixtures for the Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship ... are now likely to be relocated outside Australia due to the Federal Government's decision not to grant visas to the team from DPR Korea.
"FFA respects the Australian Government's responsibility to make decisions on visa applications.”
Per the report, the 2019 Asian Cup qualifier between Malaysia and North Korea was also postponed earlier this year due to the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's brother.
The two teams, as well as Hong Kong and the Northern Mariana Islands, have been drawn into Group J for the qualifying phase of the tournament. The group winners and five of the best second-ranked teams will qualify.