Sep 3, 2019, 4:05 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83463807
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Iran asks FIFA to move Hong Kong World Cup qualifier amid large-scale protests

Tehran, Sept 3, IRNA- Iran wishes to move its September 10 soccer World Cup qualifying match in Hong Kong to a neutral venue given the anti-government protests there that have sometimes paralyzed the city and delayed flights at the airport.

Homeira Asadi, head of the international affairs department of Iran’s soccer federation, told DPA news agency on September 2 that world football governing body FIFA has been informed of Tehran’s request. 

“We have informed FIFA about this and our application is under review,’ said FFI spokeswoman Homejra Assadi.

Since June, Hong Kong has at times experienced violent protests which have led to clashes with police and the partial shutdown of one of the world’s busiest airports, all of which has caused a drop in tourism.

School and university students are on September 3 planning to hold rallies for a second consecutive day in the semi-autonomous city.

Despite the disturbances, neither the Hong Kong Government nor its football federation have announced any plans to change the match venue. 

Sport officials in China's semi-autonomous city say Iran-Hong Kong qualification match will be held at the previously-set time and venue, that is September 10, Hong Kong Stadium. 

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. 

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 HKFA 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 is to 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.

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