Hong Kong SAR passport

Kaela-Mei Townson has dreams of playing for Hong Kong. But the Island School teenager has found herself excluded from an international tournament organised by the Asian Football Confederation next month simply because she does not have a Hong Kong SAR passport.

“She is very disappointed, ” said dad Adrian Townson. “And she is just one of many of Hong Kong’s future sportsmen and women who cannot play for the national team in their chosen sport, despite being born in Hong Kong and having lived all their lives here.”

Kaela, 13, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other girls and boys in local soccer’s age groups who, despite being born here, have no future in representing the city because they hold foreign passports.

With this being an Asian Games year – Incheon in South Korea will host the quadrennial games in September – the vexed issue of passport-eligibility has surfaced once more, with the Olympic Council of Asia following the Olympics’ criteria of passport-only rules for athletes.

Kaela is not representing the city at an Asian Games or an Olympics, but because the Hong Kong Football Association is a member of Fifa, which also insists on a passport as the official document required for player eligibility and registration, she faces an insurmountable hurdle.

“She is one of many boys and girls being denied the chance to proudly represent Hong Kong in many sports to the detriment of sport as a whole, ” said Adrian Townson. “Kaela was selected by the HKFA to represent Hong Kong at an international invitational tournament [later this month] and the AFC U-14 Girls’ Regional Championship in late May/early June.

“My wife and I are British and have lived here for 17 years. Kaela was born in Hong Kong and has lived here all her life, ” Townson said. “After consultation with the HKFA and the Immigration Department we know that to officially represent Hong Kong she needs a Hong Kong SAR passport and that the only way to get this will ultimately involve renouncing the British passport.

“We are actively pursuing the Hong Kong passport issue and our investigations into all aspects of this are still ongoing, but it is turning out to be a long process with many complications and we fear it will not be processed in time for next month as registration of players has to take place in advance of the tournament.”

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