After recent spicy Hong Kong v China sporting contests, pair could face off again – in basketball World Cup qualifying

After controversy at recent football matches, ‘derby’ rivalry could be moving to basketball court

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 12:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 10:17am

Another feisty face-off between Hong Kong and China in the sporting arena could be in store after the mainland and its special administrative region were provisionally drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2019 basketball World Cup.

Recently, political tensions between the two have been expressed by fans in the stands at sporting events, beginning when Hong Kong and China played each other in qualification for the football World Cup.

Some citizens on the mainland have been angered by Hong Kong football fans booing the China national anthem at home games, and the rivalry continued at last month’s AFC Champions League match between Hong Kong’s Eastern and China’s Guangzhou Evergrande at Mong Kok Stadium.

After an Eastern fan waved the old colonial flag of Hong Kong, some Guangzhou fans responded by unfurling a banner reading “Annihilate British dogs, extinguish Hong Kong [independence] poison”.

Guangzhou received a suspended two-match stadium ban and fine for their fans’ actions.

Now China and Hong Kong could face off in a group with New Zealand and South Korea in the Asia/Oceania qualifiers after the draw in Guangzhou’s Canton Tower.

But Hong Kong still need to confirm their place in the qualifiers by ensuring they finish in the top five at the six-team East Asia championship in Nagano, Japan, next month, then finishing among the top 14 of 16 teams at the Asia Cup in Lebanon.

“We don’t want to say we are absolutely in this group yet,” said a Hong Kong Basketball Association spokesman. “Our goal for now is to focus on the East Asia Cup and the Asia Cup in Lebanon.”

The “derbies” will take place in China on November 23, 2017, and in Hong Kong on February 26, 2018; venues were not announced.

China, ranked 14th in the world, would expect to win both games comfortably against 65th-placed Hong Kong. New Zealand are 20th and South Korea 30th.

Former USA and NBA star Scottie Pippen joined China national team player Yi Jianlian as well as Australia’s Andrew Gaze and Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko to draw 80 teams into four regional qualifiers for the World Cup, which is being held in China for the first time.