Mongkok Stadium has been selected as the venue for the much-anticipated football World Cup qualifier game between China and Hong Kong on November 17.
The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) announced the decision Thursday following a meeting with officials from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), Apple Daily reported.
Government officials are said to have confirmed that Hong Kong Stadium, which had been the preferred choice of the organizers in view of its larger 40,000-seating capacity, can’t be offered as the facility will need some breather following another scheduled sporting event in early November.
As Hong Kong Stadium will be hosting the Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifiers on November 7-8, the turf condition can’t be restored in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier game, officials said.
Hence, the match has to be held at the Mongkok Stadium, which has a seating capacity of just 6,600.
While local football fans would be disappointed that fewer tickets will be available, the HKFA said Mongkok Stadium is still a good option under the circumstances.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said all the players of the Hong Kong representative team want to play at the Mongkok Stadium as they are familiar with the pitch there.
Chan Siu-ki, a Hong Kong team striker who is now undergoing training in Thailand, said players would be able to hear the fans’ cheers better as the stands would be closer to the pitch.
Other players said the smaller Mongkok Stadium could be an advantage for Hong Kong team, which are considered the underdogs, in playing defence during the game.
Hong Kong team coach Kim Pan-gon welcomed HKFA’s decision, saying he considers the Mongkok Stadium a lucky place for his team.
Of the 6,600 seats available at the Mongkok Stadium, Leung estimates that only around 4,000 tickets can be made available for local football fans, after factoring in the seats reserved for special package tickets, sponsors and the visiting team’s supporters.
Some football fans have expressed concern that some mainlanders may resort to ticket scalping as no identity documents would be required for ticket purchases in Hong Kong.
Leung said details of other arrangements will be ironed out and made public in due course.
In other comments, he said HKFA will work with the police and various government departments on issues related to security.
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