Australia’s World Cup qualifier against Thailand is likely to go ahead in Bangkok as initially planned despite Football Federation Australia receiving a request on Saturday for the match to be either rescheduled or relocated.
Fairfax Media understands a late intervention by the Thai government is set to save the fixture from being moved to a neutral venue while the nation is in mourning following the death of their beloved king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Huge loss: Mourners pray outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Photo: Getty Images
The government will hold crisis talks with the Thai FA on Monday on whether to allow the World Cup qualifier to be held in Bangkok and the local leagues to continue to play throughout the 30-day period of national mourning.
The Thai government suspended and cancelled concerts, sporting events and other festivities that were scheduled before November 14, prompting the Thai FA to look to reschedule the World Cup qualifier with Australia. However, the government indicated professional football games are set to be exempted from the list of banned events.
The FFA was notified of the impending decision of the Thai government on Sunday but refused to finalise the Socceroos’ travel and preparation until receiving official confirmation, expected as early as Monday evening.
“We understand that the Thailand Football Association is holding further talks with the Thai government tomorrow and obviously we will know more then,” FFA chief executive David Gallop said.
While logistically difficult for the FFA’s preparations, a potential switch to a neutral venue could have provided the Socceroos’ with a significant competitive advantage by avoiding facing Thailand in front of their passionate fans inside the intimidating Rajamangala Stadium.
Reports on Saturday suggested the match was set to be relocated to a neutral venue in Southeast Asia such as Kuala Lumpur or Singapore after the FFA rejected Thailand’s initial request to switch the home and away legs of the tie.
No venue switch: Skipper Mile Jedinak is congratulated by teammates after his penalty against Japan. Photo: Robert Cianflone
With such short notice, the FFA was not prepared to host the match in November 15 which would have made it difficult to find venues and promote the match. Australia’s participation in the June 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia made it impossible to reschedule the fixture due to the lack of free international dates.
Despite looming as a potential logistical and financial nightmare, the FFA was braced for a late switch of venue. The governing body is yet to finalise travel to and from Thailand given squad selection remains unknown and it’s understood bookings for the team’s accommodation and training bases had cancellation clauses.
Australia sit second with eight points in Group B behind Saudi Arabia, while Thailand remains anchored to the bottom after losing all four of their opening games.