Shepparton has been stripped of the Asian Football Confederation Under-19 qualifiers due to visa issues.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the Federal Government would not be issuing visas to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under-19 team, which was to play at McEwen Reserve next month.
‘‘The Government has decided to not allow the North Korean under-19 soccer team to enter Australia for the Asian Football Confederation under-19 championship qualifiers,’’ Ms Bishop said.
‘‘Hosting the team would be contrary to the Government’s strong opposition to North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile development programs.
‘‘It would also be inconsistent with our efforts to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions.’’
The North Korean team was grouped with Australia, Hong Kong and Northern Mariana Islands in the AFC qualifiers.
In a major economic blow to the Shepparton region, the tournament, which was scheduled to take place on November 4 to 8, will now be shifted to a neutral venue.
City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Dinny Adem was disappointed, but feels not all is lost with the decision by the Federal Government.
‘‘We are a little bit annoyed as it would have been great to have so many people come and watch soccer in the area, but we understand where the government is coming from,’’ Cr Adem said.
‘‘We just have to move on now and continue, which we have, and now we are working on bringing other events that are just as big, if not bigger.’’
In August, Tourism and Major Events Minister John Eren elaborated on the tournament, commenting on the economic impact it would have on the Goulburn Valley.
‘‘Securing this world-class football means serious business for Shepparton — attracting visitors, creating jobs and boosting the local economy,’’ Mr Eren said.
Football Federation Australia stated its displeasure at not hosting the event in Shepparton, but understood the government’s stance on political affairs.
‘‘FFA is disappointed that qualifying fixtures for the Asian Football Confederation under-19 Championship, due to be played in Shepparton ... are now likely to be relocated outside Australia,’’ an FFA spokesperson said.
‘‘FFA respects the Australian Government’s responsibility to make decisions on visa applications.’’