Football: N. Korea, Malaysia to play in neutral venue

North Korea's players react after loosing an Asian Cup 2019 qualifier football match between Lebanon and North Korea at the sports city stadium in Beirut

Asian Cup qualifiers between Malaysia and North Korea will take place at a neutral venue next month after a diplomatic row and nuclear tensions repeatedly delayed the first leg, football officials said Friday.

North Korea's home match was postponed twice after the murder of the North Korean leader's half-brother in Malaysia in February sent tensions soaring.

It was finally due to go ahead earlier this month in Pyongyang but was delayed again after Kuala Lumpur banned travel to North Korea as global alarm grew at the regime's weapons programme.

"In the interests of competition fairness, it has been decided that both matches between the two countries will be played at the same neutral venue," the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said.

The first leg will take place on November 10 and Malaysia's "home" game will be November 13, the AFC said.

General secretary Windsor John told AFP the AFC was looking at China and Southeast Asian countries to host the games and they were hoping to make a decision next week.

The game was originally scheduled for March 28, but was deferred because of the row over the murder of Kim Jong-Nam as he was about to board a flight at a Malaysian airport.

Kim's assassination sparked a diplomatic crisis which saw both countries banning each other's citizens from leaving, and withdrawing their ambassadors. Tensions have since eased.

The fixture was rescheduled to June 8 in Pyongyang but then moved again to the next best available date in the international football calendar, which fell on October 5.

But escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula forced Malaysia to delay the match yet again.