By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, Nov 20: China’s U-20 football team has walked off the pitch and delayed their first of the 16 friendly matches in the German regional South-West league, the countries fourth tier, as activists from ‘Tibet-Initiative Germany’ displayed the Tibetan National flag.
The first match of the Chinese U-20 football team in Germany against TSV Schott Mainz has to be delayed for 25 minutes as the Chinese side refused to continue and walked off the pitch after a group of six spectators from Tibet-Initiative Germany, four Tibetan refugees and two Germans, hung out the Tibetan national flags, according to a report on channelnewsasia.com.
“We want to draw attention to the unlawful and violent occupation of Tibet and the suppression of fundamental human rights,” the report quoted one of the activists as saying to German Press Agency.
As the match is being televised live in China, the Chinese side agreed to continue only after the protesters from Tibet-Initiative Germany took down the flags, the report said.
TSV Schott’s manager Till Pleuger was perplexed by the behaviour of the Chinese team over the peaceful demonstration.
“We see it as apolitical. Just as the Chinese are allowed to hang their flags, others are also allowed to do the same,” Till Pleuger was quoted as saying in the report.
Earlier, three teams from the league, namely Koblenz, Mannheim and Stuttgarter Kickers have refused to take part in the controversial arrangement after their fans protested, but the other 16 clubs in the league will each be paid €15,000 (US$17,634) for playing the Chinese team.
The China U-20 team was controversially included in the German regional South-West league after just 19 teams qualified for the league.
The Football Association of China has signed a five-year agreement with the German Football Association last year, aiming to improve their youth development programme and to advance China’s chances at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
As per the agreement reached between the two football associations, the Chinese under-20 team would play outside of the league with no points at stake with no influence on the outcome of the league.