'No way we should go' - HKFA hopes to move Maldives World Cup match to Mong Kok as emergency declared
HKFA chairman Brian Leung wants Hong Kong to host Indian Ocean team after president Abdulla Yameen announces move giving security forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects ahead of a major anti-government protest rally
A senior Hong Kong Football Association official proposed rescheduling next week’s World Cup qualifying match against the Maldives to here after the Indian Ocean nation declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said he was greatly concerned about the safety of players after learning of the situation in the Maldives.
“There is no way we should go to Maldives under the current situation,” he said. “The players’ safety always comes first and I would propose to move the match to Hong Kong.
"Of course, we still have to seek Fifa advice first before we can start the next step, but there is already a precedent that Maldives play their home match in the opposition’s venue.”
Leung was referring to an earlier qualifier when the Maldives played their “home” match against China in Shenyang.
According to the schedule, Hong Kong will have to travel to Maldives for the qualifying match to be held at the National Stadium in its capital Mali on November 12.
But Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, giving their security forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects ahead of a major anti-government protest rally.
The move, announced on Twitter, follows an alleged attempt to assassinate Yameen and the discovery of a bomb near his official residence.
Sources said the declaration of the state of emergency would initially last 30 days.
In September, Maldives moved their home match to China’s venue when the National Stadium was not available due to poor pitch conditions.
At the request of the opponents, the match was held at Shenyang’s Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in northern China in a match that the mainlanders won 3-0.
Leung said Mong Kok Stadium could be the host venue for the match and although time was running short, he was confident of sorting out all the logistics with the authorities if it happened.
Hong Kong beat Maldives 2-0 in the first-leg match when they met at Mong Kok Stadium in June.
HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe said the situation was being closely monitored.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon was delighted with the arrival of new faces as they defeated champions Kitchee 6-0 in a training match yesterday.
Forwards Paulo Carreiro, Sandro and Alex Akande, who joined the squad after obtaining their Hong Kong passports over the past two weeks, gave the team more options in offence, said Kim.
“They have the quality to help us to be more powerful and control the game, which is what we have been looking for,” said the coach. “Tactically and strategically, we have many weapons as I am also happy these new boys can blend in with the team quickly.”
Kim also said central defender Helio Goncalves had withdrawn from the squad due to injury and his position has been replaced by Cheung Chi-yung.