China, Japan face off in uneasy final
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"China, Japan face off in uneasy final"
(AFP, Reuters) Taipei Times
This is a thorough but somewhat lengthy article on what to - or not to - expect on Saturday (7th) in the 2004 Asian Cup Soccer tournament final between Japan and China at the Workers Stadium in Beijing for perhaps those not very interested in the sport itself. But as with the majority of other reports on this topic, there could have been too much speculation involved in preparing the article.
Soccer fans are known for their barbarian behaviors in almost every part of the world. The most notorious might be the hooligans of the UK, of which many are being tracked by the police of a number of countries. Other European countries are no better either, and riots are common in the games in South America. Asian people have also displayed unprecedented level of enthusiasm in 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and Korea. Africa may have other reasons for it, but soccer is popular there also. Perhaps the only part of the world where soccer is treated in a very minor way is North America, especially the U.S. which seems to believe in unilateralism in the field of sports, too.
It is, therefore, not surprising when the spectators of a soccer game cheer the team they favor, and boo the opponent. Emotionally, they love one team and hate the other, and what fuels the emotion of each individual is a personal matter. A soccer game is a soccer game, not a diplomatic negotiation - or war - in any respect. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of local authorities, and the police, to maintain safety of the spectators and the players.
This time, after observing some alarming signs, Japan's government officials expressed their desire for the Chinese authorities to ensure the safety of its citizens there, which is how a government is supposed function, as a preliminary step, and that is what they did.
There have been reports that for Saturday's final game, 6,000 police officers, in uniforms and civilian clothes, will be assigned to ensure a trouble-free game in the stadium hosting 65,000 fans. Their task may include protecting the Japanese spectators, but the main objective is to convince all the sports-related people around the world - the fans, athletes, and the officials - that China can indeed host a large sporting event, so as not to raise skepticism in China's ability to manage the Olympics scheduled there in 2008. Chinese officials cannot risk losing face in this respect.
As for the immediate concern, let's keep our fingers crossed for the Japanese players and fans to return home safely.