Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Hong Kong to play in restive Maldives

AFP, HONG KONG

A cargo ship sails away from the island of Male, the capital of the Maldives, on Sept. 9, 2013.

Photo: AFP

Hong Kong yesterday said 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) on Thursday raised serious concerns about the match in the Maldivian capital of Male and suggested moving the game or postponing it.

The HKFA said it would not play in the nation unless the safety of their players was guaranteed.

It now says the team will attend the match on Thursday next week as planned after reassurances from Maldivian authorities.

“The correspondence we have seen between the Maldives Security Services and [world soccer body] 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 reporters.

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on Wednesday invoked emergency laws for the first time in 11 years, 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.

“The match is confirmed to take place in Male as scheduled following governmental security guarantees from the Republic of Maldives,” a FIFA spokesperson told reporters.

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.

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