Racist Hongkongers who abused Philippine players and fans must be punished

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 8:18am


Racial abuse is nothing to be proud of, not amusing, nor clever; it is shameful. That is the only way a section of supporters of the Hong Kong soccer team who gestured and hurled slurs and objects at fans of the Philippines during an international friendly at Mong Kok stadium on Tuesday night can view their actions. Such behaviour is shocking, a disgrace and an infringement of race discrimination laws and international football codes of conduct. The incident is not one to be noted and then forgotten - those involved have to be made an example of so that there can be no repeat.

The Philippines has not been in favour with Hong Kong people since a hostage taker shot dead seven tourists and their guide and injured several others in Manila in 2010. A black travel alert unreasonably still in effect gives a flawed impression of the country and its people. The ill-will is heightened by maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing and Taipei. But those are political matters, not sporting ones - nor, given our laws on discrimination, should they be in any way racial.

Filipinos have every right to be outraged. They had gone to the stadium to cheer on their team, not endure taunts and ridicule. Their national anthem was disrespected when it was played, they were insulted by being called derogatory names and plastic bottles were among items thrown at them. The barrage of discrimination worsened after the Philippines won the game 1-0.

Such behaviour is uncharacteristic of Hong Kong soccer fans. They are renowned for being good-natured, even when rivalries are fierce. Typical was the atmosphere when Hong Kong hosted the East Asian Games in 2009; each goal and significant play was cheered, no matter which team was behind it. This is as sporting events should be - non-partisan, welcoming to outsiders and convivial.

Yet what was on show on Tuesday night was more typical of racially charged matches in Europe. Racial discrimination by players, officials and supporters has long been a blot on the game and the organising bodies Fifa and Uefa are toughening penalties after a series of high-profile scandals. Suspensions will be lengthened, fines increased and stadiums partially closed to spectators. Those behind the abuse in Hong Kong have to be traced and dealt with under rules our national team has to abide by as a member of Fifa. If local race discrimination laws have been broken, punishment has to be meted out.