A football tour of Germany by China’s under-20 team has been cut short rather abruptly, apparently because the team didn’t want to continue to deal with Tibetan protesters waving flags on the sidelines.
The team was scheduled to play in a match on Saturday, as well as in a few more friendlies before the end of the year as part of its preparations for getting good at football before the 2020 Olympic Games. However, the players are now back in China with the German Football Association (DFB) and Chinese Football Association announcing that the games have been suspended.
It’s not clear when they will be rescheduled for.
The trouble began on November 18th when six protesters unfurled Tibetan flags during the middle of a match in the city of Mainz, causing the Chinese team to storm off the field and not return until the flags were put away about a half hour later.
Afterward, China’s Foreign Ministry defended the players’ decision, calling on Germany to ensure “mutual respect” for its Chinese guests. However, Ronny Zimmerman, vice president of the DFB, said that they could not ban the protests, because of this pesky thing called freedom of expression.
Zimmerman says the suspension of games will give time for the German and Chinese football federations to “discuss the situation calmly and openly and find a reasonable solution.”
However, it’s unclear what can be done to appease the Chinese side.
“It has been made clear to the Chinese federation that when you play in Germany you also have to deal with the fact that anyone can express their opinion,” the Guardian quotes DFB president Reinhard Grindel as saying.
Meanwhile, People’s Daily columnist Curtis Stone translates a Chinese-language editorial from the state news organization which takes a different view on the whole kerfuffle — accusing Germany of standing idly by as a sports game is turned into a “political assault against national sovereignty.”
“Tibet has been China’s territory since ancient times, and the Tibet issue involves China’s core interests and the feelings of the Chinese people. It is a well-known that China firmly opposes any country, any organization, or any individual that supports the anti-China separatist activities of ‘Tibet independence’ in any and all forms,” reads the commentary.
“Chinese people have every reason to express their dissatisfaction at the bizarre appearance of ‘Tibet independence’ forces on the field in Germany. Moreover, the head of the German side should be ashamed,” it continues, noting a previous incident where the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) imposed a fine against Barcelona for its fans waving pro-Catalan independence banners during a match in Germany.
Demonstrating Godwin’s law, the editorial also includes this doozy: “May I ask, does Germany allow for freedom of speech in support of Nazis?”