Guangzhou Evergrande fans say it wasn’t them who displayed offensive banner in Hong Kong, and plead ‘don’t hurt the feelings’ of genuine supporters
Twenty fan clubs issue joint statement insisting those who showed banner calling for “annihilation” of Hong Kong’s “British dogs” were not genuine fans
Guangzhou Evergrande fans insisted on Friday that they had nothing to do with the offensive banner displayed at Hong Kong’s Mong Kok Stadium in a match last Tuesday, blaming people with “ulterior motives” and pleading with football authorities not to “hurt the feelings” of genuine fans.
The Chinese champions face a fine and having to play matches behind closed doors after the Asian Football Confederation charged the club with discriminatory behaviour and spectator misconduct for the banner, which read “Annihilate British dogs, extinguish Hong Kong [independence] poison”.
Twenty Guangzhou fan clubs issued a joint statement on Weibo claiming that after an “investigation” they had determined that the four men who displayed the banner were not genuine fans, and asked that the AFC therefore not punish their team.
Photos of the banner appear to show it being held up by at least 20 people, not four, and the fans’ plea seems certain to fall on deaf ears.
“All 325 Guangzhou fans that night ... went through the strict security of Mong Kok stadium,” read the statement. “During the match, all Guangzhou fans were in strict accordance with the security requirements ...
“After the incident, we quickly launched an investigation. Four men raised a banner suspected of having political content. We further verified that the four are not our registered fan members. As for their true identity, and how they carried such a clear banner through the strict stadium security, we have no knowledge.
“Over the years, whether in the Chinese Super League or AFC competitions, home or away, we have followed Guangzhou north and south as civilised spectators at hundreds of games, [and] never have displayed illegal banners.
“We love football, enjoy the fun of football, and don’t want to involve politics – but we don’t want people with ulterior motives people to discredit the image of Guangzhou fans, and destroy the relationship between Guangzhou and Hong Kong fans.
“It is known that the behaviour of non-Guangzhou fans may cause the AFC to punish our beloved team. We earnestly hope that the AFC can conduct an in-depth investigation of the incident, conducted impartially and not make a perfunctory or hasty decision, and do not hurt the feelings of the majority of Chinese fans.”
Meanwhile, the banner display has been widely praised by many netizens in China.