Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Fans must play the game with anthem

Local supporters have a well-deserved reputation for abiding by the rules, so they should cut out the booing of song and not risk further punishments

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 1:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 1:13am

Soccer fans, regrettably, booed the Chinese national anthem again during a friendly match between Hong Kong and Laos last week. Their poor behaviour not only did a disservice to the city’s sporting image, but also called into question the effectiveness of an upcoming law in deterring such actions. With the Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia due tonight at Hong Kong Stadium, we appeal to fans to exercise restraint to avoid further penalties.

Compared to their Western counterparts, local supporters have a well-deserved reputation for abiding by the rules. But in a city where politics gets into almost everything, there is a tendency for some to express feelings and opinions in ways that are not readily accepted by the mainstream. The recent trend of booing the national anthem is linked to growing anti-mainland sentiments, particularly after the 2014 Occupy protests.

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The Football Association has been fined twice by Fifa for failing to control crowd behaviour, including in 2015 when the anthem was booed during unruly scenes before Hong Kong played China in a World Cup qualifying match at Mong Kok.

At the Laos match, a block of local supporters, some pointing their middle finger, jeered the anthem and then chanted “We are Hong Kong”.

The stakes have been raised even higher against the backdrop of a national law just passed by the state legislature to prohibit insults and disrespect for the national anthem. Hong Kong is also required to enact its own legislation as a result, although the details have yet to be revealed by the government.

There is no doubt that booing is unacceptable, but it remains unclear as to whether such a law will help. It is difficult to see how the provisions can be effectively policed when a large crowd is involved. The government and lawmakers have to address enforcement issues when scrutinising the law.

Politics should be kept out of sport. Those who defy international protocol and make political statements at sporting events must realise that others are paying the price for their lack of decorum.