Football: Hong Kong urge venue switch over Maldives emergency

HONG KONG - Hong Kong raised serious concerns about next week's football qualifier against Maldives on Thursday after a state of emergency was declared over political turmoil in the paradise island nation.

Hong Kong FA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe told AFP the team wouldn't play next Thursday's joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifier unless safety could be guaranteed, and suggested moving the game or postponing it.

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.

"We will not allow our players to play unless their safety can be guaranteed," Sutcliffe.

"We are in dialogue with FIFA and AFC over this matter, I have also tried to contact the Football Association of Maldives but as yet I haven't been able to speak to anyone," he said.

Sutcliffe said there are a few options for the match, one of which is to hold it in Hong Kong, while others included playing in a neutral venue or having it postponed. He described the prospect of playing in Maldives as "unlikely".

"Yesterday after we learnt the news we emailed FIFA...(as) we don't want to play there due to the emercency situation," HKFA chairman Brian Leung told radio station RTHK.

"We are ready if they want to do it in Hong Kong. There will be no problem," Leung added.

Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday issued a travel warning for the Maldives, calling for residents already in the territory to avoid protests and large gatherings.

Playing in Hong Kong is not out of the question - the Maldives' home qualifier against China in September was moved to the Chinese city of Shenyang over concerns about the Male stadium pitch.

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