HONG KONG: Hong Kong's government is considering waiving the city’s strict 21-day quarantine requirements in a bid to host soccer matches in the Asian Champions League and other continental club competitions, a local newspaper said on Sunday.
The city’s Home Affairs Bureau “fully backed” a proposal from the Hong Kong Football Association to bid to hold tournaments for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the South China Morning Post reported https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/3122500/hong-kong-football-association-prepares-sports.
“It’s the right time to send a signal that Hong Kong is ready to resume international mega events in a controlled environment,” the Hong Kong daily quoted an unnamed source as saying.
The mandatory quarantine – one of the strictest in the world – and a travel ban now prevent players and officials from across Asia from travelling to the Chinese city.
Hong Kong is seeking to host games in the Asian Champions League and the AFC Cup, a second-tier club competition, after the AFC requested bids after deciding to play the early phase of the competition in a series of centralised groups due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year’s AFC Cup was cancelled because of the global health crisis while the Asian Champions League was played after a series of delays in a biosecure bubble in Doha, with South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai emerging as champions in December.
Hong Kong champions Kitchee have qualified for the group phase of this year’s Asian Champions League while Eastern and Lee Man are due to play in the AFC Cup.
The South China Morning Post said the city of Buriram in Thailand has also expressed interest in hosting matches, with the AFC due to decide next week on where games in the competitions will be played.
Hong Kong's Home Affairs Bureau and the AFC did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
While the city has not been as severely affected by the pandemic as elsewhere, international sporting events usually held in Hong Kong have all been postponed or cancelled.
Limited crowds were permitted on Saturday for attend matches in the Sapling Cup, a knockout competition featuring teams from the Hong Kong Premier League.
(Reporting by Michael Church; Additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by William Mallard)