Sydney, Australia (BBN)-Football Federation Australia is waiting anxiously on advice from soccer’s world governing body FIFA as to whether the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh will be postponed or shifted amid heightened concerns about terrorism in the country.
FFA have asked soccer authorities to move the game – most probably to Dubai or the UAE – or make other arrangements for security and have been waiting for several weeks to hear whether they will agree to the request, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
But with time running out before the match is due to be played – on November 17 in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital – concerns are mounting that the team and its management will be forced to play a game in circumstances that could make them terror targets.
Islamic State admitted responsibility for a bomb attack at the weekend which claimed the life of a 16-year-old boy, wounded many more and further lifted tension in the volatile country.
In September an Italian aid worker was gunned down in the diplomatic quarter while he was jogging home, while a Japanese citizen was also murdered just days later, with IS also claiming responsibility.
There are rising tensions in a country in which Muslim fundamentalists are demanding an ever stricter adherence to their interpretation of the Islamic faith, with groups threatening reprisals to foreigners and those who do not share their views.
In a short statement the FFA said, “FFA is communicating with FIFA, AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] on the security situation in Bangladesh.
“FIFA’s current position is that the World Cup qualifier on 17 November will be played as scheduled. FFA is seeking more information from all parties, in particular Bangladesh authorities, on security arrangements and will continue to monitor the situation.”
The game against Bangladesh is, in sporting terms, crucial for Australia, following its 2-0 loss in a qualifier in Jordan earlier in October.
The Socceroos, the Asian champions, lie second in their qualifying group with nine points from four games, four behind leaders Jordan who have played a game more. Kyrgyzstan, with eight points from their five matches, are close behind with Tajikistan and Bangladesh propping up the table.
Conceding the game or just failing to play it is not an option for Australia, as that would mean a loss of three points it can ill afford to give away should Jordan continue to win games.
Such a concession could put World Cup qualification at risk as only the winners of the eight qualifying groups of five nations in this phase are guaranteed to progress to the final group phase of Asian qualifying.
Should Australia finish second to Jordan, for example, it would have to hope that it is one of the four second-placed teams with the best record to progress further to the final round.
But in that case it would be unlikely to have a seeded ranking, and could face much tougher opposition than expected.
Australia’s next qualifier is at home to Kyrgyzstan (whom it beat 2-1 in Bishkek earlier this year) on November 12 in Canberra.
Several foreign governments have warned their citizens about the dangers of travelling in Bangladesh in the currently inflamed situation.
The Australian government’s Smart Traveller site currently carries a warning for visitors to “exercise a high degree of caution” for travelling in Bangladesh as a whole, while in the Chittagong High Tracks region Australians are told to reconsider the need to travel.
The Australian cricket team’s tour to Bangladesh this month was postponed due to terrorist threats.