MANILA, Philippines – The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) will investigate allegations of racist abuse and hooliganism by local fans against supporters of the Philippine national football team, the Associated Press reported.
The Philippine Azkals defeated Hong Kong, 1-0, for the first time in history. But the squad’s achievement was overshadowed by reports that Hong Kong fans racially abused the Filipino supporters after the game, threw water bottles and even booed during the Philippine national anthem.
Inquirer reporter Cedelf Tupas, who was at the Mong Kok Stadium, was among those who confirmed the reports through his Twitter account.
Other Filipino fans also corroborated the reports, adding that Hong Kong fans were lashing out against mostly women and children. Some said the Hong Kong fans were calling the Filipinos "slaves."
According to the AP report, the Hong Kong FA will "release an official report to the public and FIFA after it completes its investigation."
On his Twitter account, Azkals team manager Dan Palami said that while the squad is "used to playing in a hostile environment," they were unprepared for the situation.
"It is unfortunate that the HKFA, who really treated the Azkals well, could be dragged down by the actions of unruly and hostile fans," Palami added.
Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta told AP that he has advised Palami to file a report.
"If there are racist remarks and we can prove it, then FIFA has zero tolerance for racism," Araneta said in the AP report.
FIFA, the world governing body for football, recently announced tougher sanctions against teams whose followers "indulge in discriminatory behavior."
Azkals head coach Michael Weiss said he has heard about the incident and expressed his disappointment.
"I haven't seen that myself, but people tell me that and if that is really the case then that shows that people over there still have to learn about fair sportsmanship," Weiss said in an interview after the Azkals' arrival from Hong Kong.
"I think we wouldn't do that. We want to respect our opponents always, at all times," he added.
But supporters of the Hong Kong football team claim that they were also provoked by fans of the Philippine Azkals.
In a statement, TPOHK (The Power of Hong Kong) said: "TPOHK has never called for jeering during the national anthem of the Philippines, and it also does not condone the throwing of missiles onto the pitch."
"However, given the situation, where there was also constant provocation coming from the Philippines players and supporters, it is wrong to point fingers at only the Hong Kong supporters," TPOHK added.
"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 toward the Hong Kong supporters section to taunt the Hong Kong supporters with jeers and hand gestures, which served only to provoke."
The TPOHK also claimed that "several Philippines players, most noticeably players number 4 (OJ Porteria) and number 17 (Stephan Schrock), 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 supports section were behaving under provocation."
But Ida Torres, an Azkals fan who watched the game at the stadium, vehemently denied that the Filipino supporters were provoking their Hong Kong counterparts.
"I can't believe they have the gall to say we provoked them. We never went up to any of them to jeer," Torres said on her Twitter account (@idagurl).
Manila hostage crisis
The AP report noted that some Hong Kong citizens "still hold a grudge against the Philippines since a Manila hostage-taking incident in 2010," which saw eight Hong Kong tourists killed.
The TPOHK statement also mentioned the hostage crisis: "For many people in Hong Kong, the scar still very much remains, especially when the Philippines has yet to offer any substantive apology in this matter. As such, it was unavoidable that emotions will run high in a match like this with this as a background."
"Filipinos are also looked down upon in Hong Kong because more than 100,000 of them work as foreign domestic helpers, toiling long hours taking care of children and doing chores for middle-class families for low pay," said the AP report.
In a poll ran at the South China Morning Post's website, 89% of respondents agree that Hong Kong football fans should apologize to the Filipinos "for yelling racial slurs at them during an international friendly." -- With a report from Reuters; Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News