The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) will investigate an incident which ended with police being called in to defuse a row between angry Iranian officials and a local press photographer who captured on film a fight between two Iranian players during a training session at the Siu Sai Wan Stadium yesterday.
Police intervened after Iranian officials demanded that a roll of film be confiscated from Sing Pao photographer Vincent Lai Wing-kam after he took photos of a scuffle between Aliasghar Modirrousta and Daryoush Yazdani.
The Iranians, who were celebrating the end of Ramadan yesterday, were preparing for their match against Chile today for third place in the Carlsberg Cup Lunar New Year tournament at the Hong Kong Stadium.
The photographer kept his film in the end despite being threatened by Iranian officials, who said they would take away his film by 'force' if they had to. When police arrived, they said the Iranians had no right to the film.
The Iranians have complained to the HKFA that their training session was closed to all outsiders, including the press.
But the HKFA, which had notified the press of the four teams' training schedules, said it had not been informed that the training session yesterday was a closed one.
HKFA general secretary Vincent Yuen said: 'We need time to investigate the matter. We have only heard from the Iranian officials and we need to know more from the other side.' The fight erupted after Yazdani was tackled by Modirrousta and Yazdani retaliated by kicking Modirrousta's leg before attacking him again with his elbow. Teammates then separated the pair.
Iranian team coach Croatian Tomislav Ivic refused to comment on the incident yesterday. It remains to be seen whether the two brawling Iranian players would be disciplined by the Iranian Soccer Federation.
'The incident lasted only a few seconds. There was a scuffle between two players after one kicked the other in retaliation for a tackle. It got a bit ugly. Then the Iranians demanded that a roll of film be taken away from a local photographer,' said one witness.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong coach Sebastiao Araujo is likely to field the same lineup as the triumphant squad who defeated Chile 3-1 on Wednesday for today's Carlsberg Cup final between the Hong Kong League XI and Nigeria.
The 22-man squad, selected by Araujo from the eight First Division clubs, are looking for another upset at the Hong Kong Stadium, and to regain the title they last won in 1992.
Araujo's decision to use an all-expat squad against Chile has come under fire from some quarters. It is feared that his selection policy would hinder the development of local Chinese players.
But Araujo has his supporters. Local Chinese players have staunchly supported Araujo's decision saying it was the best squad he could put together.
'I think the coach has been fair in selecting the players,' said South China's veteran right-winger Lee Kin-wo.
'He picked those who were competitive and fit enough. I don't mind if he fields all the non-Chinese players because, after all, it's the League XI side, not the national side. The best 11 in the league should play.
'We are playing against World Cup teams. We Chinese players are not physically strong enough.' Team captain Tim O'Shea echoed Lee's sentiments, saying: 'Although I am not Chinese or born in Hong Kong, I am still proud of representing Hong Kong in such a high standard event.
'We need success and results in the Carlsberg Cup. They chose the Hong Kong League XI to represent the SAR in the tournament. So all players in the Hong Kong league are eligible to be selected.'