A blowout victory by Guangzhou Evergrande over Hong Kong Eastern on the football pitch has become better known for what happened in the stands during the match.
In the waning minutes of their team’s 6-0 win at Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong, Evergrande fans unfurled a provocative political banner which read: “Annihilate British dogs, extinguish Hong Kong independence poison.”
Angry Eastern fans who tried to run over and confront the visiting fans holding up the banner were stopped by security. Later, the Hong Kong Football Association notified the Asian Football Confederation about the banner, causing the AFC to launch an investigation into the incident.
— Football in HK (@offsideHK) April 25, 2017
Earlier today, the AFC charged Guangzhou Evergrande fans with “discrimination and spectator misconduct.” The charges could mean that Evergrande is forced to play two matches without fans and be fined at least US$10,000. Additionally, if any of the fans who held up the banner are identified, then they could be banned from matches for the next two years.
The AFC’s safety and security regulations state that political messages are “strictly prohibited before, during and after the match” and that “the Match Organiser, together with the Security Officer and the chief police officer or Stadium security officer, shall prevent any provocative action being taken by spectators inside or in the immediate vicinity of the Stadium,” including “provocative banners.”
Additionally, Article 58 of the AFC’s rule book says that: “Anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, skin colour, gender, language, religion, political opinion, wealth, birth, sexual orientation, or ethnic, national, or social origin has committed an offence.”
SCMP also reported that one of the Eastern coaches was “slammed in the face by people from Evergrande” during an altercation in the tunnel during half-time of the contentious match.
Football has a tendency to turn political in China. Last month, China beat South Korea 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying match that became known as a “football war” and was played in front of 10,000 police officers in Changsha amid rising tensions between the two countries over the US-backed THAAD missile defense systems.
Meanwhile, during World Cup qualifiers in Hong Kong, fans regularly drowned out the Chinese national anthem with a cacophony of boos, despite warnings of severe punishment from FIFA. At a November 2015 match, some HK fans went visual, bringing in individual letters which when combined read: “Hong Kong is not China.”
An earlier match that year ended in a thrilling scoreless tie with the Chinese team’s captain allegedly spitting in the face of the Hong Kong goalie and later calling him a “fucking dog.”
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