Just who the heck does Peter Velappan think he is? I know, he is the general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). As such, Velappan took it upon himself last week to warn Hong Kong's national team that their performance in a crucial World Cup qualifier against China would be closely scrutinised for any 'funny business'. China needed to score a bunch to beat out Kuwait, who were playing the woefully inept Malaysians, on goal difference. A prominent paper in China wrote that Hong Kong should do the patriotic thing and roll over against the motherland's national team, thereby assuring that the glory of the nation would last for at least one more round of qualifying. This would have made for an interesting scenario. So how did you qualify for the World Cup? Oh, we had one of our Special Administrative Regions play dead for us in a big qualifying match. And how is that for the ultimate patriotic act? No doubt these were the type of scenarios that so troubled Velappan. Turns out, he needn't have worried. Hong Kong were infinitely capable of losing big on sheer merit. 'We will try our best and we will resist all outside factors,' Hong Kong coach Kenny Lai Sun-cheung defiantly claimed before the match. 'I warned the Chinese reporters that our fung shui is good.' But even all that good fung shui couldn't stop a 7-0 China win that was rendered moot when Kuwait beat Malaysia 6-1, sending the Kuwaitis on to the next round. Of course, the Malaysian Velappan failed to mention that more than a few observers were troubled by the match between Islamic brethren Malaysia and Kuwait. The simple truth is that Malaysia really are awful. So while all the conspiracy and counter-conspiracy theorists were busy at work, what we had here were a team, Hong Kong, who stink on an Asian level, playing a team, China, who stink on the international level. Frankly, the results were predictable. The only reason there was concern amongst the AFC honchos is because this is Asia and there have been a few blatant cases of teams and players throwing games in the recent past. Again, though, this is Asia, home to some of the oldest cultures in the world. And perhaps any stupefaction at the way things work here is the fault of outside observers and not those who were reared on this continent. In 1999 at the Asian Basketball Championships, Taiwan upset Japan to force a semi-final match with China. With an Olympic berth at stake, the Taiwan coach benched all his starting players because he felt victory was impossible and that it was crucial to have a rested team to win the clash for third place. There was not an iota of outrage from either Asian basketball officials or the Taiwanese media. It's just the way things work here. When teams venture outside of Asia, they usually find that the way things work here doesn't bode well for international success. Just look at Chinese soccer right now. Their domestic league is a shambles and seven teams threatened a boycott because of rampant corruption. It's not exactly the proper environment to develop world-class players and it shows. Pity really, because they are at the stage now in China where what they want, they feel they should get. And of course they want to be in the World Cup. It truly is the biggest international sporting event on the planet, even more so than the Olympics. The fact that you actually have to qualify to be one of the 32 countries in the tournament makes it all the more exclusive. But the fact that you have to qualify is what holds China back. Fifa is not too happy about China, with their huge market potential, sitting out the 2006 championship either. Still, couldn't one of the drooling multinationals like Coca Cola, who are huge Fifa sponsors as well as big mainland players, fix this? How about our local patriotic tycoons Li Kai Shing and Henry Fok, who dumped $300 million into mainland Olympic coffers? Couldn't they dump maybe a half billion dollars into Fifa's pocket to get China back into the World Cup? Doesn't the world know how much it needs China? Apparently not and it seems they are going to have earn entry into the World Cup the good old fashioned way. But here in Hong Kong they did their part. Football authorities served the mainland well and serving the mainland well is how people like them get to keep their jobs in the first place. It's kind of ironic that the AFC would be guilty of the same hubris as western governments, who habitually lecture China on their handling of Hong Kong. They should know: all issues pertaining to Hong Kong and China are to be handled internally. No matter if you are the AFC or the United Nations, butt out. I mean, just who the heck does Peter Velappan think he is?