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Fußball TSV Schott Mainz - U20 China
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Bratic

FSV Frankfurt refuse to ban protests at China U20 match

November 21, 2017

There promises to be more controversy when China's under-20 football team play their second match as part of a German tour. Their first game was interrupted after protesters displayed Tibetan flags in the stadium.

https://p.dw.com/p/2o0le

The Chinese under-20 national team's next match, against Regionalliga Südwest side FSV Frankfurt on Saturday, could face similar disruption to that which occurred when they played SV Schott Mainz last Saturday - their first in a series of matches scheduled against teams from the fourth tier German league.

FSV Frankfurt President Michael Görner told German public broadcaster HR on Tuesday that supporters of the club had already announced their intention to hold a protest at Saturday's match.

"I know that our supporters have registered a banner, which will point out the existence of the right to free speech in Germany, and they also plan to hang up a Tibetan flag," Görner said.

Speaking in an earlier interview with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten and Stuttgarter Zeitung dailies, Görner pleged that "we will not back a single centimeter off the basic rights our our democracy, including those relating to freedom of speech."

In view of this fact, it seems questionable whether Saturday's match will go ahead, because so far, there has been no indication that the Chinese are prepared to back down on their position.

Last Saturday's match in Mainz was delayed for almost half an hour when the Chinese U20s walked off the pitch in the 23rd minute, after a small group of protesters unfurled Tibetan flags in the stands. The game only resumed after the protesters voluntarily rolled up the flag and the Chinese players returned to the pitch.

Fußball TSV Schott Mainz - U20 China
Some of the Mainz players pleaded with the protesters to remove the flagsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Bratic

Diplomatic incident

The incident sparked an angry response from Beijing.

"We are firmly opposed to any country or any individual offering support to separatist, anti-China and terrorist activities or activities defending Tibet independence, in any form or under any pretext," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a Monday press briefing.

"I must stress that mutual respect is what the official host should provide their guest, and that respect between any two countries should be mutual."

The DFB under pressure

Ronny Zimmermann, vice president of the German football association (DFB), which is organizing the matches, said he planned to hold talks with the Chinese delegation in an effort to smooth things over ahead of Saturday's contest.

Like, Gorner, he insisted that due to the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Germany's Basic Law, banning any such protests was out of the question.

"As a guest, you should be able to handle it calmly and stand above such actions," Zimmermann said.

The DFB's plan to allow China's U20s to play gams against members of the Regionalliga Südwest was controversial from the start. Under the plan, each of the 19 German teams is to receive a payment of €15,000 ($17,600). Despite the lure of the funds in a league in which money tends to be tight, three teams, Waldhof Mannhein, the Stuttgart Kickers, and TuS Koblenz refused to go along with the plan.

Still annoyed by last Saturday's incident, the managing director of Schott Mainz, Till Pleuger, has demanded that the DFB come up a compromise.

"The DFB needs to sit down with the Chinese and find an amicable solution. If that's not possible, then it is in everybody's interest to call the whole thing off," Pleuger to the newspaper Die Welt.

pfd/ (dpa, SID)

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