China to be given the VIP treatment on arrival at Hong Kong Airport for crunch World Cup qualifier
Players will not exit through regular arrivals lounge and there will be no media or photo opportunities
Team China will sneak through Hong Kong Airport to avoid any potential clash with local fans when they arrive on Sunday night for the crucial World Cup qualifier.
The mainlanders, who need a win at Mong Kok Stadium on Tuesday to revitalise their group C qualification hopes, have been given special permission to leave the airport through the VIP exit and not the regular arrivals hall where fans usually gather to greet teams.
They will instead be welcomed by Hong Kong Football Association officials inside the restricted area before heading straight to their hotel in Hung Hom, believed to be the Harbour Grand Kowloon. There will also be no media interviews or photo opportunities at the airport.
“I think this is a proper arrangement considering the tense atmosphere ahead of the match,” said a source close to the association. “China are taking this match very seriously as they need to beat Hong Kong to bolster their chances. They want to focus only on the match and not cause any trouble in Hong Kong.”
Tension has been mounting between the two sides since the tournament kicked off in June.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) inadvertently stoked fans’ ire in Hong Kong with posters warning supporters not to underestimate the team’s group rivals. It characterised Hong Kong as a “black skin, white skin and yellow skin” team, a reference fans in the city condemned as racist.
Although the Chinese authority later apologised and replaced the poster, saying they had no intention of offending their opponents, Hong Kong fans reacted strongly by booing the China national anthem in their three home matches of the tournament so far and will likely do so again against China on Tuesday.
The city fans also slammed China captain Zheng Zhi, who was accused by Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai of calling him a dog during their goalless draw in Shenzhen in September. The fans promised to give some “treatment” to the Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder when he leads China against Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, a source close to the CFA said the 500 tickets allocated to their fans for the game were voided only because of security measures. None of these tickets has been found in Hong Kong for resale.