Hong Kong - Hong Kong and China fans will be kept completely
separate at their crunch World Cup qualifier Tuesday, using different entrances
and even different toilets as organisers try to head off tensions following
last year's pro-democracy rallies.
Around 1,200 police officers will be on standby for the
match, according to local media reports, or about one for every five fans at
Hong Kong's 6,000-seat Mong Kok Stadium.
Officials have also warned fans to behave themselves after
booing of Hong Kong's "March of the Volunteers" anthem -- which the
territory shares with China -- prompted FIFA to fine the Hong Kong Football
Association more than $5,000.
"We are separating the audience from mainland China and
Hong Kong, even for the toilets," HKFA chairman Brian Leung said Sunday.
"I think the chances of them meeting each other is
very, very little," he added. "I urge fans to stay calm... show your
Football fans jeering the anthem in semi-autonomous Hong
Kong, ruled under Deng Xiaoping's "one country, two systems"
principle, follows a souring of sentiment towards Beijing.
The densely packed Mong Kok commercial district was also the
scene of the most violent clashes between police and protesters during last
year's "Umbrella movement" pro-democracy rallies.
Tensions between fans were further fuelled this year when
the Chinese Football Association released a much-criticised, racially charged
poster describing Hong Kong's players as "black-skinned, yellow-skinned
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- Sold out in hours -
The match is critical to both Hong Kong and China's chances
of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia as they lie second and third
respectively in Group C, after drawing 0-0 under heavy security in Shenzhen in
Hong Kong, currently on 13 points, have only one game left
after Tuesday's match, away against group leaders Qatar in March. China are on
10 points but have a game in hand.
On Tuesday, fans will enter the stadium through different
gates and will be given separate bathrooms and food kiosks in two segregated
areas, divided by security officers, organisers said. About 500 away fans are
Tickets for the game sold out within hours earlier this
month, with demand bringing down the organisers' website and reports that
tickets are now being touted for 10 times their original price.
Assistant district commander Yu Wai-kit told a press
conference on Sunday that "adequate" manpower would be deployed to
ensure the event took place in a "peaceful manner", without
confirming the numbers.
Elsewhere, Australia will also play their away tie with
Bangladesh under heavy security after Australia's cricket tour of the country
was cancelled over safety fears.
Malaysia's home game against UAE will be held behind closed
doors at Shah Alam Stadium on orders of FIFA, after flare-hurling fans forced
the hosts to abandon a qualifier against Saudi Arabia in September.
Thai fans will be closely watching events in Kaohsiung,
where hosts Taiwan can put them into the next round if they avoid defeat to
Iraq in Group F.
Eight group winners and the four best-placed runners-up will
proceed to the next stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and
also earn a berth at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.For
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