Hardcore fans boo national anthem before Hong Kong friendly soccer match against Laos
Despite a ‘respect’ the national anthem law being in place in mainland China, a group of spectators at Thursday night’s match at Mong Kok Stadium make their feelings known
A block of hardcore Hong Kong fans booed the national anthem, despite a recent law in China forbidding such actions, during Thursday’s soccer friendly against Laos.
Hong Kong trounced the visitors 4-0 at Mong Kok Stadium but a section of fans, mainly in the North Stand, made their feelings known when the March of the Volunteers was played.
Some were even seen pointing their middle finger during the ceremony, irking soccer officials who were afraid another episode like this would happen again.
On the pitch, Hong Kong easily accounted for a young Laos side in preparation for their crucial Asian Cup qualification home match against Malaysia on Tuesday.
Watch: A section of Hong Kong fans boo the national anthem
Although the match attendance was down from previous encounters involving the Hong Kong national squad, there was still a sizeable crowd of 2,200 spectators – roughly one third of the seating capacity of 6,200 – who made their feelings known about the national anthem.
The Hong Kong Football Association refused to comment on the latest incident to hit Hong Kong soccer. They had said before the match “it was business as usual” and no additional security measures would be taken.
It is understood that more than 20 security personnel were deployed at the match. When Hong Kong hosted China at the same venue in the World Cup qualifiers in 2015, the number of security personnel reached more than 200.
“We have to consider the importance of the match, the potential risk of fans’ misbehaviour and other security factors before coming up with a plan,” said a source. “It would be very difficult to stop them if they want to boo the national anthem. It’s their own decision. In fact, the law is still not yet incorporated into local legislation and this may affect the fans’ attitude.”
In early September, the National People’s Congress passed the national anthem law, saying “attendees at events where the anthem is played are required to stand straight and remain solemn for the song under the law”.
While offenders on the mainland would be liable to 15 days’ detention, Hong Kong citizens would not be affected until legislation is passed in the city for the law.
Even if the law is adopted, it could be difficult to enforce. Former Legislative Council chairman Jasper Tsang Yok-sing wrote last month in his newspaper column that if booing of the national anthem takes place at a soccer match, it involves too many people and would be difficult to handle.
The recent trend of booing the anthem began two years ago in the wake of the Occupy protests. The Football Association has since been fined twice by Fifa for failing to control crowd behaviour.
However, on the pitch Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon was a satisfied man as squad, sprinkled by new players, who have become naturalised players, joining the fray.
Forward Jorge Tarres, who scored the first goal for Hong Kong, was named the MVP on his international debut. However, the 36 year-old was unsure whether he will start for Hong Kong against Malaysia on Tuesday.
“I come to each match and do my best for the team. Whether I will be starting again in the next match is not my decision but the coach,” said Tarres, who obtained his Hong Kong passport on Tuesday along with Daniel Cancela and Fernando Recio, who all appeared in the starting line-up against Laos.
“Of course I feel very happy as I have been waiting for this opportunity for seven years. I am very proud to be representing Hong Kong and I want to give my best to the fans.”
Also scoring for Hong Kong were Wong Wai, Godfred Karikari and Leonardo from the penalty spot.
Despite the result, coach Kim was not overly happy as their finishing was far from ideal against a young and inexperienced side.
“We will need to analyse our performance in the next couple of days so that we can be better prepared for the match against Malaysia,” he said.
Both Hong Kong and Malaysia need to win the match if they want to keep their hopes alive in the group which also features Lebanon and North Korea. Lebanon are leading with seven points while Hong Kong and North Korea are tied in second place with two points. Malaysia stay at the bottom with one point.