The soccer World Cup qualifying match Tuesday between Hong Kong and China at Mong Kok Stadium is expected to be an intense one, both on the field and among the spectators.
Hong Kong leads China in Group C of the Asian region.
In the light of anti-mainland sentiment among some Hongkongers, the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) warned fans of the Hong Kong team to “behave themselves”.
The HKFA has also taken steps to avert possible clashes between fans of the two sides, Apple Daily reported Monday.
At a joint press conference Sunday with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said Hong Kong fans should not boo the Chinese national anthem as they did during a qualifer with the Maldives.
In that game on June 16, the fans from Hong Kong in the Maldives booed the Chinese anthem before it began, and some even threw objects onto the field while it was being played.
As a result, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer’s world governing body, fined Hong Kong 5,000 Swiss francs (US$4,961).
Before a match against Qatar on Sept. 8 at Mong Kok Stadium, Hong Kong fans booed the Chinese anthem again.
Leung warned that booing of the national anthem this time could lead to a severe punishment for Hong Kong from FIFA, which could involve Hong Kong’s disqualification from the match.
He called on fans to refrain from bringing to the stadium water bottles, canned drinks and hard objects that might be deemed provocative.
However, FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong said the organization understands it would be very difficult to prevent fans from booing the national anthem.
Hong said the worst consequence would likely be a doubling of the fine levied against Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the HKFA has decided to have separate entrances to the stadium for local spectators and their counterparts from the mainland.
An unoccupied area — a no man’s land — will be reserved between the seats for both sides to separate them.
Separate washrooms will also be designated for both sides during the game.
Meanwhile, Ming Pao Daily reported that 20 police officers will be stationed in the stadium and 1,200 will patrol outside.
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