HK versus the Philippines

There was a “friendly” football match between Hong Kong and the Philippines on the night of June 4 which quickly became not so friendly at all.  According to SCMP:

Social media sites were alive on Wednesday morning with Philippines fans accusing a section of the Hong Kong supporters of “calling us a slave nation”, throwing bottles at mostly women and children and booing the Philippine national anthem.

However, there are always two sides to every story.  A Facebook post by a group called TPOHK states:

However, given the situation, where there was also constant provocation coming from the Philippines players and supporters, it is wrong to point fingers only at the Hong Kong supporters. In fact, we would like to point out that when the match was ongoing, many Philippines supporters, donning the Philippines national team jersey and scarfs, came towards the Hong Kong supporters section to taunt the Hong Kong supporters with jeers and hand gestures, which served only to provoke. At the end of the match, several Philippines players (most noticeably players number 4 and number 17) also showed provocative hand gestures towards the Hong Kong supporters. In our opinion, this is utmost childish and unprofessional, and we believe Hong Kong supporters who were seated next to the Philippines supporters section were behaving under provocation. This, unfortunately though expectedly, was not mentioned in the reports.

Another Facebook post:

The HK police only spoke Cantonese and evicted only Hong Kong fans, while doing nothing to stop provocations coming from the Philippine side who were being unfairly protected.

(via Badcanto)

(via Badcanto)

So who’s right and who’s wrong?  Probably everyone is a little bit wrong here.

Part of the tension comes from the Manila hostage shootings of 23 August 2010, for which the Philippine government has never formally apologized regarding its terribly botched rescue attempt.  In addition to that, President Aquino III was caught smiling at a press conference after the event, and the site was even allowed to become a tourist attraction with students and even police posing for photographs.

So how does the Manila hostage crisis of 2010 lead to football hooliganism in 2013?  Why can’t we play a little game of football without politics being involved?  And why is it so hard for the Filipino government to apologize in the first place?

The truth is that sports and politics have always been closely intertwined.  Hitler attempted to use the 1936 Berlin Olympics to showcase racial supremacy, but his plan failed when black American Jesse Owens picked up four gold medals.  Ping-pong was used to jump-start relations between the PRC and the U.S. (for better or worse) in the 70s, and recently Dennis Rodman was invited to the DPRK for some basketball (though it’s debatable whether that visit actually did anything for DPRK-US relations).  When “British slaves” Hong Kong beat the Chinese national team 2-1 in 1985 during the World Cup football qualifiers, riots ensued.  (This is to say nothing of riots occurring in regional matches, those these riots are generally not political.)

As for why the Philippines refuses to apologize, I personally think there is no reason why they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, Hong Kong is not a sovereign state and China has no interest in the incident (probably because it has nothing to do with maritime sovereignty in which the PRC is much more aggressive).  Meanwhile, the only political pressure Hong Kong has exerted on the Philippines on its own is a meaningless “travel warning”.

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One thought on “HK versus the Philippines

  1. Bai Yueh June 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm Reply

    I hope you can see from the picture that Filipinos (esp. urban ones) are many times mixed with Hokkien ppl. Aquinos have Hokkien bloodlines. Its not so clear to divide Filipinos between us vs. them. Its not a “race” thing, its government pride/face that gets in the way to peace.

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