Deal which would have seen Syria play ‘home’ World Cup qualifiers in Macau called off

Vice president of the Macau Football Association would not comment on speculation that the sticking points were the cost and complaints it would give China an unfair advantage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2016, 10:01pm

A deal which would have seen the displaced national soccer team of war-torn Syria play its “home” Fifa World Cup qualifying matches in Macau looks to have been called off.

The Macau Football Association last night expressed “disappointment” that negotiations with their Syrian counterparts had failed to reach an agreement to stage the qualifying match between Syria and South Korea at the Olympic Stadium in Taipa on Tuesday.

The official Fifa schedule had listed the world’s biggest gaming destination as the venue for Tuesday’s match.

The decision not only leaves Syria and their opponents bereft of a venue, it almost certainly kills off a wider plan for the city to host all five of the conflict-ridden nation’s “home’’ games in Group A of the Asian qualifiers – which includes a match against China.

“Bringing Syria to play their matches in Macau would have been a win-win,” Daniel Sousa, vice president of the Macau Football Association, said on Wednesday night.

“We all know the situation in Syria and why their games cannot be played there. It would also have been a big benefit to Macau to stage such a high-level international soccer match as our own team is not [up to that] standard,” he added.

Sousa said talks were still ongoing but it was understood the deal was dead. He would not comment on speculation that the sticking points were the cost of the deal and complaints from other nations in the group that using Macau would give China an unfair advantage.

Earlier, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the Macau FA and its Syrian counterpart had failed to reach an agreement on the details of the proposed venue switch.

The Korean FA added the Asian Football Confederation was in talks with the Syrian Football Association to determine an alternate venue for the match. The exact location is expected be revealed no later than Thursday.

Close to half a million people have been killed in Syria’s five-year civil war which means their soccer team must play at a neutral venue. Syria first picked Lebanon as a place to stage their home matches but changed the venue to Macau, citing security reasons.

Additional reporting: Yonhap