HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese Football Association has drawn criticism for publishing a promotional poster that warns not to underestimate Hong Kong’s team of “black, white and yellow” players ahead of their World Cup qualifiers.
The poster, published on the CFA’s official WeChat account, shows an image of three bare-chested soccer players on a red background with the caption:
“Don’t underestimate any opponent. This team has people with black skin, yellow skin and white skin. For such a diverse team, be on guard!”
Former British colony Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but fields many of its own sports teams in international competition.
China is to play Hong Kong in World Cup qualifiers at home on Sept. 3 and away on Nov. 17.
Hong Kong have a number of foreign-born players including England-born forward Jaimes McKee and Ghana-born Christian Annan.
“Using skin colour to provoke your opposition, that’s thinking. See how you deal with that if it becomes a fuss overseas,” one post on Chinese web portal QQ.com remarked.
Forward Annan told Hong Kong newspaper, the South China Morning Post, that his team mates were unfazed by the poster.
“Once we are on the field of play, it does not matter which colour we are, black, white or whatever as long as we are members of the Hong Kong team,” he said.
“I think in a way it is a good thing that the Hong Kong team are being proclaimed like this — it means they have to be aware of us.
“In the end soccer is a mind game and we don’t care about this kind of thing. We just concentrate on our matches and it will push us to work hard when people try to say something to bring you down.”
The Hong Kong Premier League responded to the controversy with a parody poster on its Facebook account, with the caption that the “black, white and yellow players” had one goal, to unite for Hong Kong.
The CFA published three other posters on the other teams they will meet in qualifying — Bhutan, Qatar and Maldives — sharing the same slogan: “Do not underestimate any opponent.”
The poster for Bhutan said to be “on guard” against a team that had an airplane pilot, while the Maldives were a “proud” team whose coach had said they wanted to beat China to finish second in Asia’s qualifying group C.
Qatar, meanwhile, were a team with “many naturalised players”.
“For such a rich team, be on guard!” the poster said.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly