The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) has proposed that the Hong Kong versus Maldives World Cup Qualifier match on November 12 be moved to Mong Kok Stadium, as a state of emergency ahead of a planned anti-government rally has been declared in Maldives.

HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said on an RTHK programme that the pitch where the match is supposed to be played in the Maldives is close to the presidential office and government departments. Since the airport is on another island, the Hong Kong team would not be able to leave immediately if an incident occurred, thus the chairman did not want the team to play there.

“There are a few ways to handle this, including finding a neutral playing ground, but I believe this will be hard to locate, as there are issues like ticketing to deal with,” Leung said, “but if it is moved to Hong Kong, we have all this prepared… the political situation there is not stable. There is a high chance it will be held back here.”

The Hong Kong national football team.
The Hong Kong national football team. Photo: Hong Kong Football Association.

Leung said he hoped FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, will respond by Thursday.

Hong Kong team coach Kim Pan-gon told Ming Pao that the weather in the Maldives is too hot and it would bring advantage to the Hong Kong team if they do not have to play an away game there.

The Hong Kong team was originally scheduled to travel to the Maldives on November 9 to prepare for the qualifying match to be held at the National Stadium in its capital Male.

Male, Capital of Maldives.
Male, Capital of Maldives. Photo: Wikicommons.

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a 30-day state of emergency on Wednesday, ahead of a major anti-government protest, which has given the security forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects with their basic rights suspended.

The Hong Kong government then issued an amber travel warning for the country, advising those who plan to visit the island nation to monitor the situation, exercise caution and avoid travelling to places where the protests are, particularly the capital Male.

In September, the Maldives moved their home match in the World Cup Qualifiers to Shenyang in China, as their stadium was not available due to poor pitch conditions.

In June, Hong Kong won 2-0 against the Maldives at Mong Kok Stadium.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.