Fifa decides Hong Kong will travel to volatile Maldives for key World Cup qualifier
There were fears the game would have to be relocated with the Maldives government declaring a state of national emergency
Hong Kong will have to travel Maldives for next week’s World Cup qualifiers as scheduled in spite of the political unrest of the Indian Ocean nation.
Fifa informed the Hong Kong Football Association that the group C match will be held at the National Stadium in the capital city Male and will go ahead on November 12.
“The Maldives Ministry of Defence has guaranteed Fifa the safety of our team as the state of emergency is declared only to cope with the demonstration in their country this weekend,” said association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak. “As Fifa has endorsed the match, we now need to go or we will be fined and deducted points if not.
“The Maldives consulate in Hong Kong also informed us the situation is not threatening as Cathay Pacific still fly to the country.”
Leung did suggest switching the match to Hong Kong when Maldives declared a national state of emergency on Wednesday.
However, he said they would closely monitor the situation in Maldives over the next two days.
“If the situation turns out to be uncontrollable, we may reconsider the decision,” he said. “But at this stage, we have to prepare to leave on Monday for Maldives via Singapore and play the match there on Thursday.”
Veteran defender Lee Chi-ho, however, was not too worried about the political situation in Maldives saying he had experienced similar issues before.
“We went to Yemen a couple of years ago for the Asian Cup qualifiers when we experienced bombing outside the hotel,” he said. “But the hectic schedule of travelling to Maldives and then returning to Hong Kong to prepare for the crucial match against China five days later will definitely be an extra burden, physically and mentally, and that worries me more.”