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Chinese Football Association (CFA)

Did Chinese soccer fans successfully organise a boycott of the AFC Under-23 Championship after they were eliminated?

Sparse crowds turn out for group games following an online campaign that took issue with ‘unfair’ officiating in the China-Qatar match

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 1:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 1:32pm

Mainland soccer fans called for a boycott of the AFC Under-23 Championships after claiming China crashed out of the tournament because of unfair refereeing, and their online campaign appears to have had some success.

The hosts failed to make it to the quarter-finals of the competition after a 2-1 defeat to Qatar in their final group match on Monday.

In front of a 15,600-strong crowd, captain He Chao was sent off for two bookable offences in the first half by referee Alireza Faghani of Iran, with China receiving seven yellow cards in the match while only Qatar were given one.

A Sina Sports report claimed “no spectators” watched any of the four following group games after China were eliminated.

An online campaign by Chinese fans urged spectators not to watch the tournament, which is being held in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, after they were knocked out “unfairly”.

Later, photographs showed a near empty stadium for the match between Japan and North Korea.

Qatar quash qualifying hopes as 10-man China crash out of AFC Under-23 Championship

One online campaigner urged Changzhou residents to hang banners at the stadium calling for a complete boycott, while another suggested no Chinese spectator should attend the matches and urged them to set up barriers in front of the gates so fans from other countries could also not attend.

Official reports on the AFC website revealed a paltry attendance of 320 for Tuesday’s match between Japan and North Korea at Jiangyin Stadium, while only 120 fans watched the Palestine-Thailand game at the 38,000-seater Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre later on the same day.

The quarter-finals begin on Friday with Qatar facing Palestine and Japan meeting Uzbekistan.