HONG KONG: Hong Kong said on Saturday it will still play next week’s FIFA World Cup qualifier in the Maldives despite political turmoil in the atoll nation, which has declared a state of emergency, following assurances from Maldivian authorities.
The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) had on Thursday raised serious concerns about the match in the Maldivian capital of Male, and had suggested moving the game or postponing it.
The HKFA also said they would not play in the paradise island nation unless the safety of their players was guaranteed.
But it now says the team will attend next Thursday’s match as planned after reassurances from Maldivian authorities.
“The correspondence we have seen between the Maldives Security Services and FIFA is reassuring and unless there are any further developments, the likelihood is that we will be going as planned,” HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe told AFP Saturday.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen invoked draconian emergency laws for the first time in 11 years on Wednesday, heightening a crackdown on dissent, after alleged attempts on his life.
“Naturally we have some concerns because player safety has to be paramount. We will be watching the situation in the Maldives closely over the next few days and I am in constant touch with FIFA,” Sutcliffe said.
A FIFA spokesperson, meanwhile, told AFP: “The match is confirmed to take place in Male as scheduled following governmental security guarantees from the Republic of Maldives.”
Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday issued a travel warning for the Maldives, calling for residents already in the Indian Ocean state to avoid protests and large gatherings.