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North Korea loses hosting soccer match amid TV concerns

In this photo provided by the Korea Football Association, South and North Korean players play during their Asian zone Group H qualifying soccer match for the 2022 World Cup at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct. 15, 2019. (The Korea Football Association via AP)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- North Korea lost the right to host the final of Asia's second-tier club competition on Tuesday, one week after a media blackout of its World Cup qualifying game against South Korea.

The Asian Football Confederation said it moved the AFC Cup final on Nov. 2 -- between North Korean army team April 25 and Lebanese club Al Ahed -- from Pyongyang to a neutral ground in Shanghai.

North Korean authorities ensured last week that a 0-0 draw was not available to be seen by viewers in South Korea, and was played in a near-empty stadium. FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended.

The Asian governing body cited "existing sanctions in place" affecting North Korea and acknowledged broadcasters' concerns and logistic challenges around working in Pyongyang next week.

"The AFC has been advised by its commercial rights partners of the challenges in enabling among other matters, the production and broadcast delivery of the Final match," the Malaysia-based soccer body said.

April 25 is the first North Korean team to advance to the final of the AFC Cup, which began in 2004 and involves teams from lower-ranked Asian countries.

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