Football: Fifa fines Hong Kong over booing fans

Hong Kong fans holding up signs that read "Boo" while the national anthem was being played.
Hong Kong fans holding up signs that read "Boo" while the national anthem was being played.PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - Fifa has fined Hong Kong after fans jeered the Chinese national anthem during a crunch World Cup qualifier last year, the city's football authorities said on Thursday, the second penalty in four months for such an offence.

Hong Kong fans jeered and turned their backs during the "March of the Volunteers" anthem, which the semi-autonomous territory shares with China, at a match between the city's side and the Chinese national team last November that ended in a goal-less draw.

They also held up white signs saying "boo" in English at the city's Mong Kok Stadium, which segregated fans from both teams using separate entrances and even different toilets in a bid to head off any potential trouble.

"The Hong Kong Football Association has been fined 10,000 Swiss francs (S$14,300) regarding the incident of the booing of the national anthem by the Hong Kong fans," said a statement published on the Association's website, citing a Fifa notification.

"The HKFA is liable for the improper conduct among the supporters of its team," the statement said, adding that any future infringements "will lead to harsher sanctions".

The fine is double the amount of a previous fine issued in October when the HKFA was charged 5,000 Swiss francs after fans again jeered the Chinese national anthem and threw a drink at a rival player during a September match.

The joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers follows the "Umbrella Movement" pro-democracy protests in 2014, which gripped the city and underlined discontent with Beijing's rule.

Fans' anger against China was also stoked in June of last year when a promotional poster used by the China Football Association described the city's team as "black skinned, white skinned and yellow skinned," which Hong Kong supporters criticised as racist.

China's perennially underachieving national team sacked its national coach Alain Perrin last Friday after a disappointing run of results left their World Cup qualifying campaign hanging by a thread.