S. Korea’s U-22 football friendlies with Syria canceled due to passport issues

September 4, 2019

 Two friendlies between the South Korean men’s under-22 football team and Syria have been canceled due to passport issues for Syrian players.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) said the two matches scheduled for Friday and next Monday will not take place on Jeju Island as scheduled, as Syrian players had failed to renew their expiring passports and were not permitted to enter South Korea.

Members of the South Korean men’s under-22 national football team train at Seogwipo Citizen’s Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on Sept. 3, 2019. (Yonhap)

The KFA announced the scheduling of these matches on Aug. 20, and it said it had been talking with its Syrian counterpart since June while offering all necessary administrative and logistics support.

The KFA apologized to fans for the inconvenience and offered to provide full refunds for tickets.

These matches were supposed to help Kim Hak-bum’s squad prepare for an Olympic qualifying event next year.

South Korea qualified for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Thailand next January. The competition will double as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The top three nations will secure their spots in Tokyo. The men’s Olympic football tournament is open only to players under 23, except for three overage players permitted per team.

Syria also qualified for the AFC U-23 Championship. The draw for the tournament will be held on Sept. 26 in Bangkok, and South Korea and Syria could end up in the same group.

The KFA said Kim’s team will leave their Jeju camp and resume training at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul. The KFA is trying to schedule matches against another opponent.