Stadium doubt for Cup

HOPES of bringing one of Asia's top soccer tournaments to the territory hang in the balance due to the uncertainty of the Hong Kong Stadium playing surface.

HK soccer's hierarchy want to stage next February's Dynasty Cup, a four-team round-robin tournament featuring the national teams of China, South Korea, Japan and the territory.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have strongly indicated the tournament could come to Hong Kong as South Korea are the only other country showing interest in hosting the soccer extravaganza from February 20-28.

However, Asia's governing soccer body is likely to bridle at the prospect of staging the tournament at two venues - the Hong Kong Stadium and the 8,500-capacity Mongkok Stadium.

Ironically, the $850 million Stadium was built to accommodate tournaments like the Dynasty Cup but pitch problems continue to be a major setback to all concerned.

The HKFA yesterday faxed the AFC to say they are still experiencing major problems at the proposed venue.

The FA suggested that the tournament be held at two different venues fearing an overuse of the pitch would intensify problems at the 40,000-capacity Stadium.

HKFA chief executive officer Vincent Yuen said: 'It was merely a suggestion and if the AFC don't like it, we'll consider other ways of hosting the tournament.

'The problem is the Hong Kong Stadium pitch. God knows what will happen if we had seven matches played at the Hong Kong in a one-week period.

'It will not be wise to stretch the tournament to say two weeks as this would be too long and it will not be economical,' he added.

An AFC spokesman confirmed they had received the fax but would not comment on whether a split of the venues would seriously affect the territory's chances of staging the tournament.

The Dynasty Cup has had Beijing as its venue for the past two years but the AFC does not want the tournament to have a permanent home.

They are looking to other association members taking turns to host the competition.

The HKFA proposed the Stadium be closed immediately after the doomed 'High Noon in Hong Kong' boxing extravaganza or after next March's Rugby Sevens for urgent pitch repairs.

A date for a Hong Kong Stadium closure has yet been decided although the HKFA have made it clear that they want the stadium opened for the Dynasty Cup as well as the popular Lunar New Year Carlsberg Cup tournament.

In other local news, the Senior Challenge Shield is destined to kick off on November 22 without commercial sponsorship for the first time in seven years.

Kui Tan and Rangers meet in the opening game, while Frankwell and South China take the second opening berth.

Both local champions Eastern and commercial giants Instant-Dict, finalists last season, have first-round byes.

Eastern will face Kitchee in the quarter-finals, while Instant will compete for the other semi-final place with either Frankwell or the Caroliners.

'The draw is an easy one for us,' said Peter Leung, manager of the defending champions Eastern. 'We will just have to wait and see whom we will play against in the semi-final.' Prize money for the competition winners on Christmas Day will be decided.

at the HKFA Councillors' meeting at the end of this month.