Not the most gracious losers

Chinese athletes and sports fans have not always been known to be gracious losers. My own most vivid memory was the 19 May 1985 World Cup football qualifying match between China and Hong Kong. China were the overwhelming favourites before the match, a much stronger team than Hong Kong and needing only a draw to go through to the next round. But after little David defeated the mighty Goliath, a riot broke out outside the Workers Stadium in Beijing. The players and coach were forced into hiding for three whole days as their quarters were surrounded by angry fans.

An even more serious riot broke out after the 2004 Asian Cup Final between China and Japan. Throughout the tournament, which took place in Beijing, fans who were fuelled with anti-Japanese sentiments, had repeatedly booed the Japanese team, burned Japanese flags and surrounded the Japanese team coach. After the match, the protests became all-out riots. Trouble flared outside the stadium and more than 5,000 policemen in riot gear were deployed to restore order.

Obviously, for these fans, the only measure of national pride was winning, not showing the world that the nation could take a painful defeat on the chin.

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