The North Korean women's soccer team gave up their participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Women's Asian Final Qualifying Tournament, which was scheduled to take place in Jeju in February. As a result, the prospect of a match between South and North Korean teams was also dismissed.
A government official said on the 25th that “the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Football Association recently informed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) of their absence in the Olympic Asian Final Qualifying Tournament.” It is reported that North Korea has not made clear the reason for not attending to AFC.
According to analysts, North Korea's sudden decision is based on the strain in inter-Korean relations. On Oct. 15, North Korea played the 2022 Qatar World Cup Men's Football Inter-Korean Qualifiers in Pyongyang without a live broadcast. It was interpreted as an extension of the blatant dissatisfaction in South Korea since the breakdown of the Second North Korea-United States Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February last year. For women's soccer qualifying tournament, the North Korean team had to be sent to Jeju outside of North Korea, which may have resulted in the decision to withdraw entirely.
As North Korea falls out, Group A is expected to hold three final matches. The qualifying tournament for Group ! will be held in Jeju on February 3-9, 2020.
The North Korean women's soccer team was drawn into Group A along with South Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar at the lottery on October 18, 2019, at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Group B includes Australia, China, Thailand, and Taiwan.
Three tickets (including Japan, the host country) are allotted to Asia for Women's Football in the Olympic games. The first and second teams from each group will compete in the playoffs (March 6 and 11, 2020), and the winners will advance to the games with Japan. South and North Korean teams were expected to decide the first and second places in Group A, but as North Korea abandoned its entry, there’s a higher possibility for South Korea to become the first in the group.
Among the insiders, there is concern that this decision may escalate to the Qatar World Cup Men's Football Qualifying Tournament between South and North Korea in June this year. The qualifying matches for the Asia region are held at home and away, with the next inter-Korean match to be held in South Korea on June 4, 2020. If North Korea maintains a tense attitude, they may even give up the qualification for their men's soccer team as well.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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