The much-hyped “Great China-Hong Kong Battle” ended last night in another scoreless tie that was a disappointing defeat for the China national team and a rousing symbolic victory for Hong Kong.
Despite warnings of more severe punishments from FIFA, many of the roughly 4,000 Hong Kong fans gathered in Mong Kok Stadium to see the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier match between China and Hong Kong, drowned out the 500 or so fans singing along with the Chinese national anthem in a familiar cacophony of boos.
But this time, Hong Kong fans even went visual — not allowed to bring in any kind of propaganda, some fans instead brought in individual letters, when combined the message read: “Hong Kong is not China.”
Hong Kong police deployed 1,200 officers for the night to make sure things did not get out of hand between the two sides. According to SCMP, the two sides were separated by rows of empty seats and given separate entrances, food kiosks and even toilets. Officials chose the smaller and more manageable venue after claiming that there were problems with the turf of the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
The Chinese team set the pace for most of the match while the Hong Kong fans dominated from the bleachers repeatedly shouting out in English “We are Hong Kong!” Both sides had good scoring chances, but neither team was able to cash in.
The match once again finished in a scoreless tie, the ending of the match was much less ugly than the previous one between the two squads marred by an incident where the Chinese national team captain allegedly spit on the Hong Kong goalie and later called him a “fucking dog.”
— James Porteous (@JamesPorteous) November 17, 2015
For Hong Kong fans, the game’s result seems to have meant more than just raising their team’s very slim chances for a World Cup bid.
“The draw proved that Hong Kong wouldn’t take it lying down,” Oscar Lau, a 30-year-old legal professional, told the New York Times. “It speaks to our defiance of China both politically and athletically.”
“This match represents a culmination of the dissent we have with China over years,” another HK fan told the NYT.
Neither China nor Hong Kong has secured a place in the next round of qualifying. Hong Kong ranks second in Group C with 14 points and has one game left to play, against Qatar, the group leader with 18 points. Meanwhile, China is in third place with 11 points and two games left against Qatar and the Maldives.
— FIFAWorldCup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 17, 2015