Call to change rules on SAR passport to soccer

Football chief's appeal after HK-born player surrenders British passport

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 3:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 8:04am

The "remarkable commitment" of the latest player to renounce his citizenship in order to play soccer for Hong Kong has brought a renewed call for a change to the eligibility rules.

Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said players should not have to face such a tough psychological choice.

He was speaking after Hong Kong-born footballer Michael Campion, 30, became the latest in a wave of players to swap their original passports for a Hong Kong SAR passport so they could qualify for the city's team.

"It is good that players are prepared to rescind their original nationality because they want to represent Hong Kong," Sutcliffe said . "It shows remarkable commitment."

Chinese passport holders are not allowed dual nationality, unlike British passport holders, which Campion had been until this year - his father is British and his mother from the Philippines. Fifa, soccer's international governing body, requires a passport to prove citizenship of a country, and does not accept the Hong Kong permanent ID card as a form of identity.

This, said Sutcliffe, left local soccer players who hold a Hong Kong permanent ID card but not a Hong Kong SAR passport with "a difficult psychological decision" about whether to relinquish their nationality in order to be eligible for the Hong Kong team. Sutcliffe, who noted that the requirements differed from sport to sport, said: "Other places are able to nationalise football players much easier and quicker than in Hong Kong. This places us at a disadvantage when trying to compete internationally."

He argues that the unique histories of Hong Kong and Macau mean they should be seen as exceptions to the rules and permanent identity cards should be recognised.

Campion, a midfielder who now hopes to represent Hong Kong in a friendly against Argentina in October, agreed.

He said giving up his UK passport had been a very stressful and difficult process that raised many questions, from family to finances.

"I weighed it all up and decided to put my football aspirations first and foremost, but it wasn't easy. I think Hong Kong should come to some kind of arrangement with Fifa," he added, pointing to its former history as a British colony and the post-1997 "one country, two systems" agreement with Beijing.

"Ultimately, I think you should be able to represent the national team without rescinding your passport."

Five other players on the Hong Kong team - two Britons and three Ghanaians - have relinquished their original nationality since 2012, according to a HKFA spokesperson.

The appeal for a change in the rules comes amid fervour over the 2014 Fifa World Cup - a tournament for which Hong Kong has not qualified since it first entered in the early 1970s.

But Sutcliffe has admitted that the problem is unlikely to be very high up the list of priorities for soccer's world body, which decided to make passports a requirement after player eligibility and registration had been abused in the past.



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