Angry Chinese Soccer Fans

(ObserveChina)  The Chinese Angry Young People Who Are Poisoned By Nationalism.  By Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波).  September 20, 2007.

[in translation]

The 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup is being held in China with the 16 teams being divided into four sections.  In Group A, the teams are Japan, Germany, England and Argentina.  On September 17, the Japan vs. Germany game took place in Huanglong Sports Stadium, Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province with more than 39,000 spectators in attendance.  There was no surprise in the result as the world's number one ranked team Germany defeated Japan by a score of 2:0.

I did not watch the live broadcast of the game.  But I read Mr. Ning Xiali's essay <The boos from the "patriots" and the thanks from the Japanese soccer team> at  The essay said: "I went to the website and the first thing that I saw was the photographs of the banner held up by the Japanese women to thank China ... Then I went to Tianya and the information there was that the Chinese spectators booed the Japanese women throughout the entire game and reserved all their applauses for the German women, and that did not change until the Japanese women unfolded the banner to thank China."

Mr. Ning's words led me to search for that photograph on the Internet.  Anyone who has any commonsense would be touched by it.  Although the Japanese team lost the game, they still unfolded the banner and bowed to thank the host nation China and the spectators.  This is rarely seen in World Cup competition.

In order to verify that Mr. Ning's description about the Chinese spectators was accurate, I also looked up the corresponding information on the Internet.  At China's German soccer BBS, the essay <Live watching: Germany vs. Japan> reported that the Chinese spectators acted just as Mr. Ning said.

The netzien Emilio described the reactions as a fan at the scene: 

For this match, Huanglong Stadium (Hangzhou) practically became a home field for the German team.  More than 80% of the spectators were cheering for the Germany team.  Following the flow of the game, they applauded, cheered and shrieked.  Many times, the spectators organized themselves to yell, 'Go, Germany!' in Chinese.  This surprised us Germany fans because the women wouldn't be able to understand what was being said.

I must mention the Japanese team.  When the match was over, the Japanese girls unfolded a banner in the center of the field -- Thanks, China!  At the same time, they bowed towards the fans.  By that time, actually, most of the fans had departed already.  As I look at the photograph again, I am still moved.  Throughout the entire match, with the exception of a few Japanese fans, most of the spectators were booing the Japanese team.  When the Japanese anthem was played, many people sat down (this is truly extreme rudeness! this is BS!).  During the match, they cheered for Germany in a one-sided manner.  The guys behind us asked, "Why won't they cheer for Japan?  Their girls got here through hard work.  They are getting glory for us Asians!"  Personally, I don't understand why the spectators favored the Germans.  While this is natural for us fans of Germany, most of the other people ought to be neutral.  Nevertheless, these Japanese girls still solemnly thanked the spectators after the match.  No matter what they were thinking inside their heads, their action should earn our respect for their nation at the very least.

Most of the commentators after Emilio's statement held dissenting views.  Many people disagreed with his observations at the scene.  Some people applauded the booing of the Japanese team: "This is the right way to treat the Japanese.  Booing is good."  Someone else said: "Little Japan is most hypocritical.  The more he appears to play nice to you, the more calculating he is inside his head!"  Someone even nitpicked by asking: "I suddenly thought about a problem: If they wanted to thank China, then why did they use English?  Why couldn't they use only Chinese ... was that meant for the Chinese to read, or for foreigners to read?"  Someone even said sarcastically: "... Japanese women are all masochistic.  The worst treatment they receive, the more elated and ecstatic they become."

In the world today, the outcomes of these high-profile international sports competitions are not just a matter of win/loss for certain nations with distorted forms of nationalism.  Instead, the outcome can elevate national self-pride and release ethnic hatred.  Whenever the South Korean team played in the 2002 FIFA Men's World Cup in Japan/South Korea, there were fake whistles and the ugly "red ocean."  In China, following the increased fervency of nationalism in recently years, any encounter between China and Japan in international competition becomes a venue for the Chinese angry young patriots to release their hatred.  Therefore, the Chinese booed the Japanese women not because they love the German team.  Instead, they did so out of a narrow and blind national hatred of the Japanese people.

In my memory, this is not the first time that the Chinese fans released their hatred against the Japanese.  At the 2004 Asian Championship, the anti-Japanese fervor of the Chinese people went beyond the proliferation of verbal violence to actual physical violence.

During those Asian Championship, the anti-Japanese patriots would turn any game in which the Japanese team played into an orgy of hatred no matter which city it was.  At the opening ceremony, the uncivilized behavior of the Chinese fans towards the Japanese team drew the criticisms of the Asian Football Confederation General Secretary Dato' Peter Velappan.  But he did not expect that those words of criticisms would draw a strong response from Chinese fans in the media and on the Internet.  Ultimately, Velappen had to apologize.

In the preliminary rounds, Japan played in Chongqing, where the fans put on a farcical display of mindless anti-Japanese nationalism.  On July 24, Japan played Thailand and the Chongqing fans booed, cursed and tossed mineral water bottles onto the field throughout the match.

Before the match began, the national anthem of Thailand was played with the almost 50,000 spectators standing at attention.  When the national anthem of Japan was played, the almost 50,000 spectators sat down without even the barest manner.  When the match began, the Thai team received "super home field treatment."  Whenever they gained possession of the ball, the decibel level from the spectators rose through the drum-banging, horn-blowing and cheers: "Go, Thailand!  Go, Thailand!"  Whenever the Japanese team gained possession of the ball, the spectators hissed, booed and cursed.

Seven minutes into the game, the Japanese team scored a goal.  There was stone silence in the stands.  Then the referee blew the whistle and disallowed the goal due to an infraction.  Cheers rang out from the spectators!  Ten minutes into the game, the Thai team scored a goal and the spectators were overjoyed, perhaps even happier than if the Chinese national team had scored a goal!  During the half time break, the Thai reporters filmed the Chongqing fans and they were applauded, cheered and saluted by the fans.  When the Japanese reporters tried the same, they were booed, cursed and showered with an avalanche of mineral water bottles.  Throughout this match, there were very few fans of the Japanese team.  Whenever someone cheered or waved the Japanese national flag, they would draw spitting, curses and mineral water bottles.  Several Chongqing young men even assaulted the Japanese supporters.

After several rounds, China and Japan met in the final championship match.  At the August 7 match, the Chinese national team players and their fans pushed anti-Japanese sentiments to a new height.  During the pre-game interview, the Chinese goalkeeper used insulting language such as "Little Japan" to inflame the anti-Japanese hatred that was already raging among the Chinese fans.  The pre-game atmosphere was extremely tense.  In order to prevent a riot, the Chinese government mobilized almost 50,000 armed police and public security personnel to guard the 70,000-seat Beijing Workers' Stadium.  This level of personnel far exceeds what any other nation would deploy for such events.  Even so, the loss of the Chinese team still caused more than 10,000 fans to riot afterwards.  They not only used violent language against the Japanese players and burned the Japanese national flag, they also blockaded the Japanese team bus and smashed the rear window of the car from the Japanese embassy ... this soccer game became a diplomatic incident as a result.  The Japanese embassy in China protested to the Chinese government, and the Beijing public security bureau had to apologize.  The Chinese ambassador to Japan, Wu Dawei, expressed "regrets" to the Japanese foreign minister Taro Aso.

At this FIFA Women's World Cup, the Japanese and Chinese teams were assigned to different sections.  They will not meet in the finals either.  Both China and Japan were ranked number three in their respective sections.  After two games, China still has a chance of advancing into the final eight.  After three games, Japan has been eliminated already.  Otherwise, we might have another replay of the tidal wave of anti-Japanese feelings in the 2004 Asian Championships.

The fervent political nationalism in China has caused damage to both the sporting and nationalistic spirits in China.  It is also a defilement of the international spirit of sports.  After the 2004 Asian Championship, the ugly nationalism exhibited by the Chinese people caused the international community to have doubts about the Beijing Olympics.  If this distorted form of nationalism is not rectified, then this single-bladed poisonous sword will continue to shine.  While this sword may seem to be awesomely powerful from the outside, the truth is that each swing of the sword ends up hurting China itself.

(SCMP)  Anti-Japan boo-boys cause for concern.  Martin Zhou.  September 30, 2007.

When the Japanese women's soccer team unfurled a banner of gratitude at the Hangzhou Huanglong Stadium, it belied what had happened for 90 minutes before.  Japan, trying desperately to get into the knockout phase of the women's World Cup, had to endure not only the onslaught by reigning champions Germany on the pitch, but also a chorus of abuse from the almost 40,000 spectators, who had come not so much to cheer the Europeans but to jeer their Asian neighbours.

In this group A finale in the coastal city of Hangzhou 13 days ago, heckling and booing threatened to bring down the roof whenever the Japanese gained possession. A huge German flag was passed around the stands by a mostly Chinese, 39,817-strong crowd.  The overwhelming partisan support for the Germans - who won 2-0 - coupled with obscenities directed at the Japanese, certainly raised a lot of eyebrows.  "People paid a proper standing tribute to the German national anthem but once the strains of the Japanese anthem set in, most of them sat down and booed," said a German journalist. "To be honest, it was really impolite."  Yet the Japanese women were undaunted. They returned to the pitch after the final whistle, held up a banner reading "Thank you China" and bowed to the stands in all directions.

The anti-Japanese sentiment once again fuelled concerns the deep-seated animosity between the neighbours could mar next year's Olympics.  The Japanese team offered little insight into the rationale behind their gratitude, but if there was a reason for appreciation it could have been a sense of relief: they were spared the worst. Japan's male footballers were not so lucky three years ago.

The 2004 Asian Cup final was played out to the backdrop of smouldering hatred by Chinese fans right from the opening whistle and culminated in a full-scale riot in Beijing after Japan beat the hosts 3-1 to clinch the title.  Thousands of angry fans blocked the gates to the stadium after the loss, trapping the Japanese supporters inside for hours. They chanted anti-Japan slogans, burned Japanese flags and pelted missiles at cars driven by Japanese diplomats.  The unrest prompted the international community to question China's "mental readiness" to ensure safety and fair play at the Olympics.

The bitterness stems from Japan's ambiguity over the country's war-time atrocities and is exacerbated by the rising tide of nationalism on the mainland.  Territorial spats over the Diaoyu islands and disputed offshore oil reserves do not help the situation.  Although Sino-Japan ties on the political front have improved somewhat since the Asian Cup turmoil, any Japanese presence at an adrenalin-fuelled sports event on the mainland remains a source of tension.

In August, the Japanese under-23 side found themselves engulfed in a furore at an Olympic test event in Shenyang, one of the four mainland cities designated as a venue for the group-stage matches of the Olympic soccer tournament next year. The tension reached such a level that the Japanese consulate advised visiting supporters to avoid appearing in public places in their national team jersey.

The Chinese authorities, keen to project a good image of the country ahead of the Olympics, have heeded the dangers.  In March, renowned author and former culture minister Wang Meng called for a "correct" attitude towards Japanese athletes during the Olympics, warning any outpouring of anger could sully the mainland's reputation.  "We should not mix politics with sports," said Wang, on the sidelines of the annual congress of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the government's top advisory body.

Beijing, though, is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

A source close to the paramilitary armed police said if Emperor Akihito accepted an invitation to attend the opening ceremony next year, large numbers of plain-clothed police officers would be planted in the 90,000-seat National Stadium to stop any jeering.  "It would be a huge embarrassment if the Japanese delegation enters the stadium to the sound of boos in front of their own head of state," said the source. "Beijing is working desperately to avert that scenario, even with some unusual tricks."

Authorities are also carefully studying the Olympic schedule to avoid putting the Japanese in the limelight on some "sensitive" dates. This strategy was best illustrated by the rescheduling of the Japan-Germany women's World Cup clash. The tie, originally slated for September 18 by Fifa, was moved forward a day at the last minute at the behest of the government, because September 18 marks the 76th anniversary of Japan's invasion of China's northeast provinces.

"There is no doubt that Japanese athletes will have to live with the hostility [at the Beijing Olympics]," said Tong Zeng, a leading activist in the campaign to defend China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands. "The resentment is justified and a natural response towards a sports team representing a former invader that denies its tainted past."  Asked whether the goodwill banner by the Japanese women conjured any sympathy, Tong replied: "It's a heart-warming display of kindness, but again I don't think it will do much to put an end to the heckling."