Occupy Central

Come on, Hong Kong officials - show some passionate support for our heroic football team!

The city’s politicians stopped short of showing full support for the team as they managed a goalless draw against China in the World Cup qualifier

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 11:27am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 12:23pm

The Hong Kong football team’s heroic goalless draw with China in a crunch World Cup qualifier last night has given the city a much-needed cause for celebration.

At a time of sharp political divisions and concerns about a lack of social cohesion, this surprise result against the national team should bring the community together.

It is therefore surprising that senior Hong Kong officials have seemed reluctant to show unbridled support for the team.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who apparently could not watch the game because he is attending the APEC conference in Manila, was careful to appear neutral when commenting on his blog.

He said: “Both sides did their best and fully show their spirit of sports, which let spectators watch an exciting match. I appreciate the performance of Hong Kong and the national team and thank Hong Kong Football Association and organisations concerned for their efforts and arrangements.”

It is not clear from his comments whether he was even supporting Hong Kong.

Watch: Hong Kong celebrates goalless draw with China

Chief Secretary and Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam did at least say before the game that she supported Hong Kong to “play a wonderful game.” And it appears Financial Secretary John Tsang, was gripped by the tie which he watched on his iPad while on a trip to Romania. But he tweeted simply: “Exciting match.”

A World Cup match played between Hong Kong and the national team is one country, two systems, in action – no matter who wins

No wonder Hong Kong Football Association chairman Leung Hung-tak was prompted to say on a radio show this morning: “Hong Kong government officials should naturally support the Hong Kong team.”

Hong Kong’s officials are often accused by their critics of not wanting to be seen to disagree with the Central government.

That might be understandable when dealing with sensitive political issues such as Beijing’s ruling on universal suffrage and the Occupy Central protests which followed last year.

But political correctness surely should not prevent our leaders from congratulating the team and admitting that they were rooting for it during the match, like everyone else in Hong Kong. Yes, there was some regrettable booing of the national anthem at the match, but the support was passionate and generally good natured.

Supporting Hong Kong is not unpatriotic. It is, in a sense, showing support for the one country two systems concept. The Basic Law makes it clear that Hong Kong is entitled to take part in international sporting events under the name Hong Kong, China. A World Cup match played between Hong Kong and the national team is one country, two systems, in action – no matter who wins.

The result also provides a valuable PR opportunity for the Hong Kong government. There is no easier way to show it is in tune with the city’s people than to join them in supporting the team, which has now avoided defeat in both of its World Cup matches against strong favourites China.

Sport can be a great unifier. We saw it when Hong Kong last punched above its footballing weight when beating Japan in the final of the East Asian Games in the city in 2009 and again in Mongkok last night.

So come on Hong Kong officials, don’t be shy. Let’s hear some passionate support for the Hong Kong team. They put in a performance we can all be proud of, even if their opponents happened to be China.