(Persia Digest) - The likelihood of Hong Kong’s 2022 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifier at home against Iran going ahead next Tuesday is still uncertain after the visiting side requested the match be played on neutral ground.
A letter guaranteeing safety for all at the match at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po on September 10 was sent two weeks ago by the Hong Kong government to Fifa and the AFC, and the response is understood to have been positive.
However, Associated Press news agency reported on Tuesday that the Iranian Football Association (FFI) now wants the match held at a neutral venue, citing safety fears arising from the political unrest in Hong Kong.
“We have informed Fifa about this and our application is under review,’ said FFI spokeswoman Homejra Assadi.
AP also quoted Iranian news agency Isna as saying that if the protests at Hong Kong’s international airport continue, a journey would probably not be feasible.
Chan Kin-wa writes in South China Morning Post that both the government and the Hong Kong Football Association have no plan to change the venue.
Sports commissioner Yeung Tak-keung, who announced the earlier safety guarantee, said as far as he understood the match would go ahead at Hong Kong Stadium.
“We have received no further updates and the match will proceed,” said Yeung on Monday. “We are not worrying too much about the airport chaos and will guarantee the safety of the visiting team by all means.”
HKFA chief executive Paul Woodland said the AFC replied last week that the match can be played in Hong Kong but added the governing body would give a final review. The HKFA submitted an updated assessment report about the ongoing situation on Tuesday, delaying the AFC review.
The FA has also started selling tickets for the match at HK$180 each with a concessionary rate of HK$600 for all four home games of the qualifiers.
Hong Kong kick off their campaign on Thursday against Cambodia at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh before playing host to Iran next Tuesday. The group also features Iraq and Bahrain.