National anthem booing? No, this is basketball as Hong Kong prepare for ‘Tall Blacks’
While there has been no let up in booing at local soccer matches, HK basketball officials don’t think they will get the same treatment when they take on New Zealand
The Hong Kong basketball team are unfazed that local fans might boo the Chinese national anthem just as their soccer counterparts have done when they take on visiting New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup basketball qualifiers on Sunday.
Several days after losing their opening match in their campaign to China in Nanjing, Hong Kong have been given home ground advantage against the “Tall Blacks” at the 2,000-seat Southorn Stadium.
Hong Kong hosted soccer games have drawn a lot of negative news these days with the recent soccer fans’ booing during March of the Volunteers.
But the Hong Kong team are clearly unworried that the recent anti-Chinese sentiment that has swept both Mong Kok and Hong Kong Stadium might sweep through Southorn Stadium.
“We don’t worry about it as it is something we can’t worry about because it is out of our control,” said Hong Kong team manager Mok Yiu-keung. “But we do believe basketball fans usually behave well and even if they chant, they will only chant the team they support.
“We welcome fans to come and support the Hong Kong team because we need them to help us against New Zealand who are the better side on paper.”
The Kiwis also lost their opening home game to South Korea and they need victory against Hong Kong to boost their confidence for future qualifiers.
The top three teams from each four groups will qualify for the next round and of the 12 teams, seven of them will represent Asia and the Oceania for the 2019 finals in China.
Although China is hosting the tournament, they are using the qualifiers as a build-up for the finals.
Hong Kong received a timely boost ahead of the New Zealand match with Eastern captain Lee Ki recalled to the team. He replaces injured Lam Yu. Lee did not play against China because he was not eligible having played in the Asian Basketball League with his club, Eastern. However, he has been cleared for international duty by Fiba ahead of the game.
“It’s nice to be back especially as this is an important game,” said the point guard. “New Zealand are the better side but we won’t go down without putting up a good fight in front of the home crowd.”