One country, two toilets: HK, China fans to be kept separate at World Cup qualifier
Different entrances to Hong Kong’s 6,000-seat Mong Kok Stadium. Different toilets. Different food kiosks. One crucial World Cup qualifier.
Nothing has been left to chance. Great pains have been taken to reduce the likelihood of supporters from opposing sides meeting.
With all that preparation for the match on Tuesday (Nov 17), one can be forgiven for thinking that Hong Kong will be taking on a country with which it has a long history of enmity.
But they are taking on one of their own, China.
Around 1,200 police officers will be on standby for the match, according to local media reports, or about one for every five fans.
Officials have warned fans to behave themselves – The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) was fined HKD$40,000 (S$7,300) by Fifa last month after fans booed the Chinese national anthem during a match against Qatar in September.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung said on Sunday (Nov 15): "We are separating the audience from mainland China and Hong Kong, even for the toilets.
"I think the chances of them meeting each other is very, very little."
About 500 away fans are expected to turn up.
"I urge fans to stay calm... show your sporting spirit," said Mr Leung.
Tension between both sides rose after last year’s "Umbrella movement" pro-democracy rallies.
It was 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 and white-skinned".
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 September.
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.
This isn't the only World Cup qualifier being played under tight security.
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 the United Arab Emirates 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.Source: AFP