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Rules governing soccer ban political provocations

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 08:38

The Chinese Football Association announced on Sunday that the nation's Under-20 team will return home from Germany after indefinitely suspending the plan for the team to play a series of friendlies with German fourth division teams after Tibetan "independence flags" were unfurled at a match in Mainz.

The team only agreed to continue playing in the televised match against TSV Schott Mainz after the protesters took down the flags.

While it might be argued that it would have been hard to prevent the flags entering the stadium, that does not excuse the German Football Association, which organized the matches, of its response.

Ronny Zimmermann, vice-president of the German FA, said it could not ban the protests, as the protesters had the right to freedom of expression and "certain rules apply".

Indeed, FIFA's code of conducts for stadiums contains an article that prohibits political slogans and banners from being displayed.

It is natural therefore that the Chinese soccer players and Chinese FA feel indignant. What the pro-Tibetan "independence" activists did obviously violated FIFA rules and went against the sporting spirit.

Under FIFA rules it is the obligation of the German host organization to guarantee that such matches are free from political protests. If such a requirement cannot be met, there is enough reason for the Chinese side to withdraw from the matches that had been arranged.

It is quite probable that many Germans consider the incident to be a storm in a teacup, and regard the decision by the Chinese FA to be an overreaction.

Yet China's commitment to national unity is well known, and they would understand why its Under-20 team and its FA have acted as they did, and why the incident is so politically sensitive, if they were willing to put themselves in the shoes of their Chinese counterparts.

There is no doubt that the majority of Western countries use double standards when it comes to the question of Tibet. Look at how the majority of Western countries reacted to Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain, and how they accommodate the Dalai Lama's activities worldwide in his quest for the so-called independence of Tibet.

The situation, as the Chinese FA has said, is regrettable because the incident has put a dent in the well-established friendly relations between the two countries.

It is hoped that the repercussions of this particular incident will help countries understand China's position, and that its resolve not to tolerate any separatist sentiment will sink in. If so, cooperation will be able to continue smoothly.

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