Hong Kong football authorities investigate reports of racist abuse
Reports of racist abuse during Hong Kong’s home friendly against the Philippines this week are being investigated by local football authorities.
Hong Kong fans at Tuesday’s game called their Filipino counterparts “slaves”, threw bottles at them and booed the Philippines national anthem, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper and a Filipino journalist at the game. The Philippines won 1-0.
The Hong Kong Football Association will release an official report to the public and FIFA after it completes its investigation, spokesperson Benny Chan said Wednesday.
Philippines football officials said they were waiting for a report from their team before deciding whether to complain to FIFA.
The incident comes as FIFA decided last week to treat racist abuse more seriously by toughening up punishments.
Cedelf Tupas, a Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter, said the hostility began before the game even started. “They booed our national anthem,” he said.
Jeers and taunts during the game included calling the Philippines a “slave nation,” he said, citing a Filipino fan and resident of Hong Kong who understood Cantonese.
The hostility intensified after the Philippines scored in the second half. By then, spectators were throwing bottles and juice cartons at the Filipino fans, Tupas said. Others made obscene gestures, he added.
“They called the attention of the security, but they were just told ‘Calm down, your team is winning.’ They felt they were not sufficiently protected,” Tupas said. Security personnel later tried to stop the rowdy fans.
Tupas said the Filipino fans, mostly women and children, made up about 10 per cent of the crowd of 4,500.
When the game ended, the Filipino players approached their fans “but the Hong Kong fans threw water bottles at them, some of them still with contents,” he said. Philippines midfielder OJ Porteria picked up one bottle thrown at him and drank it in full view of the crowd.
“I and my companions were the last to leave the stadium for fear they were waiting for us outside the stadium,” Tupas said.
Chan said the HKFA has a “zero-tolerance” approach to racism and condemned the “inappropriate” behaviour, which he said was “bad for Hong Kong’s image.”
The association “hopes that fans can have better self-control in the future and bring only the passion for football to the stadium to enjoy the match,” he said.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta said team manager Dan Palami informed him there was an incident. Palami was expected to file a report by Thursday.
“I told him that you better put it in writing because it would be difficult to take action and make statements without the report,” Araneta said. “If there are racist remarks and we can prove it, then FIFA has zero tolerance for racism.”
The Asian Football Confederation said it would take action only if member associations filed formal complaints to the confederation. A confederation representative in Kuala Lumpur declined further comment, saying it sanctioned the match but was not involved in organizing it.
Some in the southern Chinese city still hold a grudge against the Philippines since a Manila hostage-taking incident in 2010, in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bungled police rescue. The Hong Kong government has maintained a black travel warning for the Philippines since the incident, one of two it has issued. The other country to get the label is Syria.
Filipinos are also looked down upon in Hong Kong because more than 100,000 of them work as foreign domestic helpers, toiling long hours taking care of children and doing chores for middle-class families for low pay.