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HomeSportsFifa World Cup 2026: security officials ‘will protect us’ for Iran match,...

Fifa World Cup 2026: security officials ‘will protect us’ for Iran match, Hong Kong footballer says


Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai has dismissed worries over visiting Iran, with the city’s footballers poised to begin their 2026 World Cup qualifying group campaign there on Thursday.

Head coach Jorn Andersen’s team start with a daunting fixture in Tehran before hosting Turkmenistan in So Kon Po five days later.

Tensions in the Middle East as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict had raised questions over whether the Group E game should be moved, with Hong Kong football bosses acknowledging the situation was “complicated”.

But Andersen’s squad – although depleted by withdrawals including that of star forward Everton Camargo, through injury – were preparing to travel, with the experienced Yapp the latest of several players to declare their willingness to do so.
The evergreen Eastern keeper says Hong Kong’s fortunes are more important than personal goals. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Yapp was interested only in how his team would acquit themselves against formidable opponents who will also feature in Hong Kong’s group at January’s AFC Asian Cup finals in Qatar. Iran are ranked No 21 in the world, to Hong Kong’s 150.

“There is no problem travelling to Iran,” Yapp said. “They [security officials in the country] will protect us.

“Iran are a top team in the world. How we cope will depend on how we manage the atmosphere and level of competition.

“I play every game with confidence, but we cannot chase the match. If we have the right attitude, it can replace ability.”

Yapp said his duel with Tse Ka-wing for the national No 1 jersey reflected the improving well-being of Hong Kong football, and emphasised the need for a regular diet of plum international fixtures to develop emerging talent.

Tse, 24, pressed his claims for the senior gloves with a string of marvellous displays during the under-23 team’s recent run to the Asian Games semi-finals. Yapp, though, has 86 caps following a debut in 2010, and has been a virtual ever-present for a decade.

The 33-year-old remains undiminished and was flawless in club team Eastern’s impressive Senior Shield semi-final victory over BC Rangers on Saturday.

Yapp allayed concerns over a bang on the knee he sustained while shutting out Rangers, and was looking forward to renewing his friendly rivalry with Tse this week.

“I have a little bit of pain near my knee joint, but it is not serious, I will be fine for this week,” Yapp said. “The competition with Tse is good, and a healthier situation for the national team than previously.

“More young players have been coming through in the past two years, especially goalkeepers. We also have Ivan [Ng Wai-him, the 21-year-old Southern keeper]. They are pushing me, but I push them, too.

Hong Kong’s men into Asian Games football semi-finals with famous win over Iran

“Hong Kong have lots of good young players, but not many chances to show their ability in big matches. The Asian Games gave them that platform, and Hong Kong needs more games against top opposition.”

Yapp and Tse have played one match apiece in each of the past two international windows.

Tse Ka-wing starred for Hong Kong at the Asian Games and is pushing Yapp for a senior starting spot. Photo: Reuters

“The head coach tells us who will play, nothing else,” Yapp said. “We cannot control who he will pick, only our attitude and how we train, and I have to show with my performances I can play.”

He added that he “hoped” he would eventually reach 100 caps, “but the number is not important, the team’s performance is all I care about”.

Yapp is closing in on the 10th anniversary of his second spell with Eastern, where he won the Premier League in 2016. He will have the chance to erase the painful memory of losing last year’s Senior Shield final on penalties to Kitchee when the teams meet again in this season’s showpiece in the new year.

“Eastern is like my family,” he said. “Not many clubs focus on the youth players and one of my jobs is to help them develop and mature. We have excellent coaching staff, and reaching finals shows we are going the right way.

“We do not have the resources of Kitchee and Lee Man, but we have shown we can compete.”



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