China’s Under 20 Games in Germany Postponed due to Tibetan Flag Protest

As we previously mentioned the German and Chinese football associations had come to an agreement to allow the Under 20 Chinese National team to play 16 games in the German south west regional division (fourth tier of German Football).

The intention given officially of inviting the Chinese to play in Germany is because they wanted to help them prepare for the Olympics in Tokyo, and the league had an uneven number of 19 teams. The unofficial reason is certainly for financial gain as each team is being paid 15,000 Euros which begs the questions – what is the overall financial gain? And what are the future benefits for Germany in allowing them to enter the league, albeit to play friendly games rather than give the chance to a German club.

During the first game vs TSV Schott Mainz a small handful of Tibetan independence protesters – 7 fans and 4 flags in total – managed to force the Chinese to storm off and refuse to return for 25 minutes, until players of TSV Schott Mainz persuaded the protestors to put the flags away.

After this incident the German and Chinese football associations have agreed to postpone the rest of the friendlies until after the winter break, the German FA released a statement stating it had, “substantial evidence of further escalation”.

What China hasn’t realised in this whole debacle is that they have now caused this escalation. By refusing to play because someone rocked up with a Tibet flag you have offered a loaded bullet to anyone who; 1. Supports Tibet in their struggle against China 2. Anyone who supports free speech or freedom to protest 3. Anyone who is incensed that the Chinese were given a chance to play at this level ahead of other local teams 4. Anyone opposed to China in general.

There’s no doubt pressure has been put on Germany by China to do something about the protests.  After the first game the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “The country firmly opposed any separatist, anti-China or terrorist activities defending Tibet” and called for "mutual respect" from Germany as host toward its guest.

The German football association has made it very clear to the Chinese that the right to protest in Germany is legal. It has also been made clear to the Chinese no matter how incensed a flag makes you, you cannot force your law upon another country however much you would like to.

The German Football Federation President stated in response to his Chinese counterparts previous comments that, "It has been made clear to the Chinese federation that when you play in Germany you also have to deal with the fact that anyone can express their opinion."

Apply these to and fro statements in a larger context and both countries are at risk of coming out of this whole situation with damaged reputations. Will Germany end up doing what China wants and enforce a stadium ban of flags which are in undesirable taste to the Chinese or will China pull their teams from playing in Germany due to their inability to control and influence the crowd as they desire?

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