Phuket switch for Caroliners
South China's crucial AFC Cup tie against Muang Thong United of Thailand has been moved to Phuket because of the chaotic political situation in Bangkok.
The group G match will now be played at the 20,000-seat Surakul Stadium in Phuket, 700 kilometres south of the Thai capital, on Tuesday, as scheduled. South China will replace the Thai side at the top of the standings if they win.
The Phuket venue has previously been used for the women's world championships and the Thai domestic King's Cup tournament. The South China players will also enjoy the luxury of a five-star resort about 30 minutes drive from the stadium.
With direct flights available from Hong Kong to Phuket, South China will not need to transit in Bangkok, meaning they should be able to strike a deal for insurance coverage, one of the team's primary concerns when they asked for a change of venue.
Muang Thong United had plans to increase security at their Thunderdome Stadium, 20 kilometres from the centre of Bangkok, in order to preserve their home advantage. They had promised the Asian Football Confederation that they would deploy more than 200 police officers and security guards at the venue.
But South China made it clear they would not travel to Bangkok at such a dangerous time and planned to put their case to world governing body Fifa. The Hong Kong government's 'black alert' for Bangkok remained in force yesterday, warning against travel to the city.
South China are second in group G on seven points, three behind leaders Muang Thong. VB, of the Maldives, are third on six points. Only the two top teams will go through to the last 16.
But the Caroliners have suffered a major setback ahead of the tie, as their top marksman, Chan Siu-ki, has been ruled out due to a broken ankle. They will host VB in their final group match at Hong Kong Stadium on April 27.