Hong Kong probes racism at Philippines friendly

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

HONG KONG -- Reports of racist abuse during Hong Kong's home friendly against the Philippines this week are being investigated by local football authorities.

Hong Kong fans at Tuesday's game called their Filipino counterparts "slaves," threw bottles at them and booed the Philippines national anthem, according to the South China Morning Post. The Philippines won 1-0.

The Hong Kong Football Association will release an official report to the public and FIFA after it completes its investigation, spokesman Benny Chan said on Wednesday.

Philippines football officials said they were waiting for a report from their team before deciding whether to complain to FIFA.

The incident comes as FIFA decided last week to treat racist abuse more seriously by toughening up punishments.

The newspaper quoted an unidentified fan, identified only as an expatriate Englishman, who said he was disgusted by the actions of the Hong Kong fans. He told the newspaper that when then Philippines players tried to celebrate with their fans after the game, they were subjected to verbal and physical abuse and obscene gestures.

Chan said the HKFA has a "zero-tolerance" approach to racism and condemned the "inappropriate" behavior, which he said was "bad for Hong Kong's image."

The association "hopes that fans can have better self-control in the future and bring only the passion for football to the stadium to enjoy the match," he said.

Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta said team manager Dan Palami informed him there was an incident. Palami was expected to file a report by Thursday.

"I told him that you better put it in writing because it would be difficult to take action and make statements without the report," Araneta said. "If there are racist remarks and we can prove it, then FIFA has zero tolerance for racism."

The Asian Football Confederation said it would take action only if member associations file formal complaints to the confederation. A confederation representative in Kuala Lumpur declined further comment, saying it sanctioned the match but was not involved in organizing it.

Some in the southern Chinese city still hold a grudge against the Philippines since a Manila hostage-taking incident in 2010, in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bungled police rescue. The Hong Kong government has maintained a black travel warning for the Philippines since the incident, one of two it has issued. The other country to get the label is Syria.

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. (AP)

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