Chinese fans take loss to Japan sitting down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am

Security was tight inside and outside Guangzhou's Tianhe Sports Centre last night as bitter rivals China and Japan met in an Asian Games soccer match.

However, the game passed peacefully, despite the hosts losing 3-0.

The two East Asian giants have been embroiled in a diplomatic row since early September over Japan's arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters in the East China Sea, which has triggered a string of sometimes violent protests in both countries.

About 150 Japanese fans - mostly local residents - turned up in the 60,000-seat stadium, guarded by about 100 policemen who formed a human wall around them.

After the final whistle, security officials quickly escorted them away in three buses.

A Japanese fan said many of his friends in Japan had been worried about their safety.

'But we live in China and we know Chinese people. We are not worried about our safety. It's safe,' he said. Armed police patrolled the stadium throughout the match, while plainclothes police were also scattered among the crowd. One plainclothes officer said there were several thousand police on duty.

Banners and bottles containing any liquid were also banned to prevent any 'untoward situation'.

The only slightly agitated moment came when the hosts went 2-0 behind. Some fans began arguing but the quarrels were contained within seconds. Chinese fans stood up and shouted slogans every time Japan scored, but their body language was more disappointed than aggressive.

After Japan scored their third goal on 64 minutes, Chinese fans began to leave the stadium as if they could not bear to watch any more. The stadium was not full at the kick-off but by 8.40pm, just before full-time, it was about 20 per cent empty.

Chen Weiguo, a 23-year-old fan from Dongguan , said: 'I'm here to cheer for China ... but I never expected China to win because Japan is a very strong team. We'd be lucky even to pull even.'

Guangzhou local Hu Zhenyou, 28, said: 'It's not too much of a surprise; China is a habitual loser in football.'

When Japan's under-19 team played the United Arab Emirates in the Asian under-19 championship in Zibo , Shandong , last month, Japan's squad were booed and one spectator snatched their national flag from ceremonial personnel while the Japanese anthem was being played.