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Fans last watched Hong Kong play at home in 2019, against Cambodia in a World Cup qualifier. Photo: May Tse

Hong Kong could host Myanmar in first home international since 2019 – if government okays ‘closed loop’

  • After no home game for Hong Kong men’s team since before the Covid-19 pandemic, plans are afoot for Myanmar to visit in September
  • Myanmar would stay in bubble to avoid need for quarantine if plans win government approval – and match at Hong Kong Stadium could feature fans

Hong Kong could stage its first international match on home turf in almost three years if a plan to invite Myanmar for a friendly in September is approved.

The match would help the Hong Kong team to prepare for next year’s Asian Cup after they made it through the qualifying stage in India in June to secure a berth in the finals – their first since 1968.

The Hong Kong Football Association is in negotiations about the fixture with the Southeast Asian nation, aiming to reach an agreement later this week.

However, the football body still needs government approval for a quarantine exemption to allow the Myanmar squad and officials to visit in a “closed loop” format, with Hong Kong’s Covid-19 border restrictions still in place.

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All inbound travellers are required by government to complete a period of quarantine – currently three days in a hotel and four further days of monitoring.

“We plan to set up a safety bubble for the visiting team even if it will cost us an additional budget,” FA chairman Pui Kwan-kay said.

“We don’t think the Myanmar team would come here for a three-night hotel quarantine before the match. This is not feasible for a football team.”

Setting up the bubble would allow the visiting team to attend training through point-to-point transport from their hotel without coming into contact with the wider community.

The match would take place at Hong Kong Stadium, where part of the lower tier of the stands would be kept closed to minimise players’ proximity to spectators.

Former Hong Kong coach Mixu Paatelainen (centre, black shirt) and his players in 2019, when they last played at home. Photo: May Tse

“We did carry out similar arrangements when we hosted the AFC Cup group stage last year under pandemic restrictions, and there weren’t any major problems,” Pui said. “I think we can follow the same safety procedures for the international friendly.

“At the moment, fans are allowed to come to stadiums to watch our Premier League matches, with certain health requirements, and we do expect that they will be able to come to watch the Myanmar match. We will discuss all of these arrangements with the government.”

Commissioner of Sports Yeung Tak-keung said that the government had received the request from the FA regarding Covid-19 measures for the proposed match, and would try to work out a plan to allow it to go ahead.

Hong Kong last played at home in November 2019, when they defeated Cambodia 2-0 at the So Kon Po stadium in a World Cup Asian zone qualifying match.

After the coronavirus began to spread around the world in 2020, travel restrictions caused the qualifiers to be halted. They resumed in 2021, but in Bahrain, in a tournament format featuring all five teams in the group.

The 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers then followed the same model, with all four teams playing each other in Kolkata, India.

Wong Wai (left) celebrates a goal during the qualifying group stage as Hong Kong reached the Asian Cup finals for the first time in more than half a century. Photo: HKFA

“We haven’t staged a home match for a long time and the fans will be eager to come to support the Hong Kong team, especially after the successful Asian Cup qualification campaign,” Pui said. “Also, we need to provide the Hong Kong team with playing opportunities ahead of the finals.”

The forthcoming Fifa international window will fall between September 19 and 27. Pui said that the intention was to hold the match during a weekend to attract more fans, preceded by a training camp for the Hong Kong team.