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Men’s football North Korea opt out of World Cup qualifiers due to Covid concerns

SOUTH KOREAN officials have revealed that North Korea have told football’s Asian governing body they will not participate in World Cup qualifiers next month because of coronavirus concerns.

Kim Min Soo, an official from the Seoul-based Korean Football Association, said today that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has asked North Korea to reconsider their decision.

He said the North notified the AFC last week of their intent to drop out of the matches.

South Korea are scheduled to host North Korea, Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka in Group H qualifying matches from May 31 to June 15.

The group matches are being played in hubs because of delays in continental qualifying for the 2022 World Cup caused by the pandemic.

North Korea’s Olympic committee also said last month they had decided to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics to protect their athletes from coronavirus infections.

An official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said Seoul still have hopes that the North will participate in the World Cup qualifiers in South Korea, saying they would provide a rare opportunity for sports exchanges amid a bad time in bilateral relations.

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

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