We will not skip national anthem, says Hong Kong soccer chief as patience wears out with boo boys
Hong Kong Football Association says anthem is a sign of respect and it will be played before the crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia on Tuesday
The March of the Volunteers will ring out from Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday night, despite the Hong Kong Football Association having the option to skip the national anthem and head off another noisy fan protest.
HKFA officials have given up on fans who insist on booing the anthem, saying their futile appeals for common sense have fallen on deaf ears.
Under Fifa rules, it is not necessary to play the national anthem before the start of an international match if both teams and the match commissioner agree.
However, the HKFA board has determined it should be played against Malaysia in a crucial Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
“We think it shows a kind of respect to your country,” said board chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak.
Watch: Hong Kong football fans boo their national anthem
“It’s not only Hong Kong; many other countries also adopt the same practice. In the United States, they even conduct the national anthem before domestic competitions in major sports such as baseball and American football.”
The association has been haunted by the national anthem crisis since June 2015 when a large number of fans booed the March of the Volunteers before Hong Kong played hosts to Bhutan in a World Cup qualifying match at Mong Kok Stadium.
The fans were apparently responding to the crackdown on the Occupy protest in Central and Mong Kok the previous year.
Hong Kong was twice penalised by Fifa for the crowd behaviour, against Qatar and China in 2015.
Despite the crowds continuing to express their discontent through jeering the national anthem at home games, there has been no more punishment meted out from governing bodies.
“The situation has been improving and only a small section of the fans continue to do so,” said Leung. “We won’t make any more public appeal to them as we have done this so many times before. But we all know this kind of behaviour is not in the best interests of Hong Kong soccer.”
Don’t boo Chinese national anthem, Hong Kong football authority begs fans while admitting its hands tied
The National People’s Congress of China passed the national anthem law last month which will be incorporated into Hong Kong law when local legislation has completed.
Just last week, a section of fans in the North Stand at Mong Kok Stadium jeered the national anthem before the international friendly against Laos.
On the playing field, Hong Kong must take all three points against Malaysia to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Coach Kim Pan-gon recruited three naturalised players into the squad after they obtained their Hong Kong passports last week.
Forward Jorge Tarres and defenders Fernando Recio and Daniel Cancela, all originally from Spain, made their international debuts for Hong Kong last week against Laos.
Malaysia have also recruited naturalised players to strengthen the squad – defender Matthew Davies, midfielder Francisco Insa and striker Darren Lok Yee Deng.
Malaysia are bottom of the table with one point, while Hong Kong have two.
Lebanon, who play host to North Korea on Tuesday, lead the group with seven points. North Korean are tied with Hong Kong.