May 19, 1985 saw Hong Kong’s historic 2-1 victory over China in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. As China was eliminated from the competition, the red-clad Chinese players sat on the pitch weeping tears in the rain, while the fans in Beijing Workers’ Stadium burst into anger, creating what is generally considered the first serious incident of violence in Chinese football history. The saddest loss, known simply as “5-19”, triggered China’s football hooliganism.
In recent years, China’s football world has been no better than China’s stock market, another arena that denies fair play. Faked matches, black whistles (corrupt referees), betting on games and other ugly phenomena make China’s football matches more like a “war” in which athletes are hostile to each other and fans act the same way. Angry fans were openly hostile to the visiting team, hurled bottles and pieces of garbage to referees or players of the visiting team, or expressed their grievances by attacking people and vehicles.
Such misbehaving audiences have already turned up in many places of China. Football hooliganism also leads to hooliganism in other sports, like basketball. Following the growing incidence of violence in China’s sports grounds, China will “strike hard” against football hooliganism. Offenses listed include setting off fireworks or firecrackers, displaying insulting slogans, mobbing the referee or the players, throwing things on the pitch, and “other activities disturbing the order of the match”. Football hooligans will get the “red cards” to be held for up to five days and fined as much as 200 yuan (US$25). Hooligans sentenced to detention can also be barred from watching matches in stadiums for a period of one year.