AFC confirms Macao pull-out of World Cup qualifier in Sri Lanka amid safety concerns
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed that China's Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) will not send their soccer team to Sri Lanka for the second leg of a World Cup qualifying match that was due to be played on Tuesday, despite players' willingness to travel to Colombo.
Macao, sitting 187th in the FIFA rankings, clinched their first win in a World Cup qualifier in 21 years after pulling off a 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in the first leg of the tie in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province.
However, officials from the Macao Football Association (MFA) raised concerns about the risks of playing the second leg in Colombo after coordinated suicide bombings in April in Sri Lanka killed more than 350 people.
"The Asian Football Confederation has been informed today by the Macao Football Association that their national team will not travel to Sri Lanka," read an AFC statement. "The AFC will now refer this matter to FIFA and the appropriate AFC committees."
The MFA explained that their decision to pull out of the second leg was due to the AFC's reluctance to grant their request to switch the match to a neutral venue "due to the recent terrorist attack in Sri Lanka".
"The MFA will have to put our players' personal safety as a priority... 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," the MFA added.
The Football Federation of Sri Lanka responded that they were "sorry" the Macao team refused to come to Sri Lanka, but insisted they had "fulfilled all security requirements" with FIFA and the AFC ahead of the tie, and Sri Lanka had a right to play the second leg at home.