World Cup qualifier in doubt for homeless Syria

AFP , Thursday 1 Sep 2016

Syria national football team
Syria faced Japan in their 2018 World Cup qualifier Asian second-round Group E match in Saitama in March (Photo: AFP)

War-torn Syria's World Cup qualifier with South Korea has been thrown into doubt after Macau pulled out of hosting next week's game, South Korea's football body said on Thursday.

South Korea have already cancelled their bookings after talks broke down between Macau and Syria, who are unable to host home games because of the conflict in their country.

A South Korea official said the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is now looking at alternative venues for Tuesday's game, Syria's first in Asia's third round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"We were notified yesterday morning that Macau won't be hosting the match. I'm aware that we've made the necessary cancellations," Ahn Hyo-Jin, a communications official at the Korea Football Association, told AFP.

"The Asian Football Confederation is currently in talks for an alternate venue and since the AFC is the arbiter of the matter, we are waiting for their decision."

The cancellation leaves Syria in limbo as they set out to become one of the two teams from Group A to gain an automatic qualifying spot for the next World Cup.

Ahn said there was no chance of South Korea hosting the game, unless it is switched to become the Koreans' home fixture against Syria, initially scheduled for next year.

"There is no possibility of hosting the match in South Korea. The match has to be hosted by a third country because it cannot be held in Syria," he said.

"Once a third country is decided, it has to host all final qualifiers that Syria is playing. That means South Korea will have to host Syria's matches against other teams and that's not possible.

"South Korea will host a home match against Syria next year, so unless that's moved up, it's unlikely."

A Macau Football Association official told AFP that the southern Chinese territory had failed to "reach consensus" with Syria, without giving details.

"Because we could not reach consensus with Syria, the match will not be held in Macau," the Macau official said.

The AFC was not immediately available for comment. Iran, China, Qatar and Uzbekistan are the other teams in Group A.

South Korea open their bid to reach the World Cup for the 10th time when they play China in Seoul later on Thursday.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

Short link: