There is drama in Macanese football after the Macau Football Association (MFA) decided to withdraw the team from the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers while the players have threatened to quit if not allowed to play the second leg.
Macau were drawn against Sri Lanka in the first round of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers and defeated their opponents 1-0 in the first leg held at the Zhuhai Sports Center Stadium in the Guangdong Province of China PR earlier this week.
The second leg was scheduled to be played at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sr Lanka on June 11 with Macau national team having a real chance to make it to the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers which will begin in September.
But the MFA have now decided to not send their team to Colombo due to security concerns. “…Due to the recent terrorist attack in Sri Lanka and for the sake of the team’s personal safety, we have been in contact with FIFA, AFC and Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) to discuss and negotiate that this match to be played in neutral country (venue),” MFA said in a statement.
“However, after more than a month of discussion between parties and as of now the match venue is still scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka by FFSL. MFA will have to put our players’ personal safety as a priority. And, in the view of the fact that we cannot guarantee the safety of the team while they are in Sri Lanka and we cannot afford to take the risk to put our players’ lives in danger,” it said.
“Thus, MFA has made the decision not to send our National Team to Sri Lanka for the match scheduled on June 11. Please trust that this is not an easy decision to make and MFA had to put into serious consideration in order to make this difficult decision,” the Macau Football Association said.
The farce of Macau’s withdrawal from the World Cup qualifier continues. The players harshly criticized the decision and said they want to play the return leg. Lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka-ho will attend a press release with some players and fans on June 9th, 2 pm pic.twitter.com/OE9FkjP1Rb
— Football in HK (@offsideHK) June 8, 2019
However, the players have failed to agree with the association and have threatened to not play for Macau again if not allowed to play the second leg.
“We feel that Macau football has not been respected in previous years and finally now we have the chance to give our Macau citizens, fans, family and friends a reason to be proud of Macau national team. We are closer then ever to reach our main goal and we fought for too long to just let it slip between our hands,” the players said in a statement.
“It’s not guaranteed that we will go thought to the next stage, but we want to go and fight the 90 minutes left to try and achieve our goal. For Macau for us and for the future generations this could be an important step ahead,” they said.
“The list of players below want to go to Sri Lanka and play the 2nd leg and demand that MFA and RAEM government authorities accepts and works on a solution to make it happen. If they do not accept and approve our request, the players below are as of now no longer available to represent Macau National Team,” it said in a statement signed by 24 senior, 11 U-23 and 13 U-18 national team players.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan football authorities have assured Macau that the country is safe to visit and play football in. “We have fulfilled all security requirements and AFC and FIFA has accepted our security plans to play the said game,” the FFSL said.
“Furthermore, Sri Lanka is now a safer county to travel and all governments have relaxed travel advisories including China , under which Macau falls as administrative unit,” it said.
“Many special dignitaries including Indian Prime Minster [Narendra Modi] is also visiting Sri Lanka during this week end and there is no question of any security threats,” the Sri Lankan FA said.
(Photo courtesy: Macau Football Association)