HK women's travel plans hit by Bangkok turmoil
The Hong Kong women's team were caught in no-man's land yesterday, having to delay a trip to Bangkok to take part in the Asian Games qualifying tournament, which begins on the outskirts of the trouble-hit Thai capital tomorrow.
As tanks and armoured vehicles rolled onto the streets and the army began a crackdown, the Hong Kong Hockey Association postponed the departure of the squad until tomorrow in the hope the crisis would end.
'We have been placed in an untenable position by the organisers and the Asian Hockey Federation,' HKHA vice-president Brenda Smith said yesterday. 'While we don't believe the players will be in any danger, one never knows what can happen.'
Tessa Yung, a member of the 18-strong squad, said: 'I can't believe they think it is safe for us to go. I'm worried and will leave it until the last moment to decide what to do.'
Like the men's team who qualified for November's Asian Games in Guangzhou after finishing third in a tournament in Bangladesh last week, the women's team have to take part in a qualifying tournament.
Originally eight teams were to take part, but Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have pulled out leaving only five - Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan and hosts Thailand.
Uzbekistan had dropped out early, but Sri Lanka and Pakistan pulled out on Tuesday due to the troubles in Bangkok. The results of the qualifying tournament are now academic as only five places are available for Guangzhou.
The tournament will take place in a province north of the capital and the team hotel is also far from the trouble spots.
'The Thai Hockey Federation has given us assurances we will have police escorts and we won't have to worry about our security,' Smith said. 'But many of the girls, and their parents, are worried especially with the government warning Hong Kong people not to travel to Bangkok.'
Hong Kong had asked the AHF to postpone the tournament, and even offered to host it. But both requests were turned down.
'We desperately want to play in the Asian Games in Guangzhou as it is more important than any other Asian Games,' Smith said. 'But at the same time the players' safety must come first. We are considering going later, and not playing our first game against Kazakhstan on Saturday. But we don't know what the rules are if we don't turn up for the first match.'
Hong Kong: Barbara Mountain, Lo I-ka, Yip Ting-wai, Tessa Yung, Anna-Christie Ozorio, Nicole Emett, Miranda Hung Sing-moon, Nicola Sawyer, Michele Heggli, Grace Wong Teen-wai, Rachael Lau Pui-yan, Weeraya Ho Ka-yan, Chung Mei-ki, Kirstin Buttle-Ulvin, Angelina Mok Wai-lun, Shannon MacKellar, Sarah Mountain, Christie Fearnside