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Jorge Tarres trains ahead of his Hong Kong debut. Photos: Chan Kin-wa

Spanish-born Jorge Tarres condemns violence in Catalonia as he eyes Hong Kong debut in Asian Cup qualifier

The 36-year-old striker is one of three players that become eligible this week and have been included in Kim Pan-gon’s 23-man squad

Barcelona-born striker Jorge Tarres admitted on Monday night he feels shame after witnessing from afar the violence-tainted Catalan independence referendum, but the 36-year-old did not want to shift the attention away from Hong Kong’s upcoming AFC Asian Cup soccer qualifier against Malaysia.

Hong Kong play host to Laos in an international friendly on Thursday in a match that is their final warm-up clash ahead of their qualifier against visitors Malaysia next week, a match they need to win to keep their hopes alive of earning a spot in the 2019 event.

Tarres is one of three Spanish-born players that become eligible to play for Hong Kong this week after spending seven years in the territory and the dangerous goalscorer is a key member of Kim Pan-gon’s 23-man squad.

He had his say on the chaos in his homeland after his first practice session with the Hong Kong team at Sai Tso Wan, expressing his sadness while trying to remain upbeat about his impending debut.

Jorge Tarres (left), Fernando Recio and Daniel Cancela have obtained their Hong Kong passports.

“I am a football player and this is not the right place to talk about things of this kind, but honestly I feel terrible and I feel shame,” Tarres said.

“They sent the police to the poll stations to hit the people, to hit parents with kids, they made a mistake. It’s terrible.

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“These people just wanted to show an opinion by putting papers in the box. Spain is an amazing country and a very nice place but now we are the shame of Europe as people around the world could see what happened.”

Tarres, however, was excited about the prospect of making his international debut and said he would give everything he had if selected, dismissing any notion that his presence is made at the expense of home-grown talent.

Fernando Recio sharpens his foot skills during training.

Kim certainly needs the service of Tarres despite his age, as he has scored over 60 goals in Hong Kong as a prolific striker in the past seven years.

Police vs firefighters: officers clash in defining images of Catalonia referendum

Before his arrival in Hong Kong, Tarres played for a number of clubs in the lower divisions in Catalonia, including Espanyol B in the Segunda Division B, before joining local powerhouses Kitchee in 2010.

The veteran will only obtain his Hong Kong passport on Tuesday, as will compatriots Fernando Recio, a centre half, and left back Daniel Cancela, who are also in the squad and in line to make their debut.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Mixed emotions for striker Tarres