Chinese U20 football team stormed out of football match in Germany after Tibet protest

Neil Connor
A Chinese spectator attempts to tear away a Tibetian flag which was raised by others in protest of China's politics regarding Tibet at the friendly match between TSV Schott Mainz and China's U20 team at the regional sports facility in Mainz, Germany, - dpa

China’s Under-20s football team stormed off the pitch during a friendly match in Germany after demonstrators unfurled Tibetan flags.

The team – which is coached by former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai - only agreed to continue playing in the televised match against TSV Schott Mainz after the protesters took down the flags.

The incident left football chiefs in China and Germany red-faced as they seek to salvage a series of friendly matches aimed at preparing China’s young footballers for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

The TSV Schott Mainz game was the first of 16 friendlies the young side is to play against lower clubs in Germany until May - with the next game against FSV Frankfurt on Saturday.

Ronny Zimmermann, vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB), which has organised the matches, said: "We cannot ban the protests, there is the right to freedom of expression here and certain rules apply.

"However, we also want to be good hosts and as a result we are not happy with this incident.”

Sun, who was signed for Man City for £2 million in 2002 and was the first Chinese player to score a Premier League goal, sought to deflect attention from the walkout back towards the football.

"The team came to Germany to improve their football and to gain experience," he said.

"I expected football to be talked about, but now it is about something else.

"For me, this was a friendly match and I hope it will just be about football here and nothing else."

Several spectators raised a Tibetian flag in protest Credit: DPA

The German FA is seeking to avoid a similar embarrassing situation during the remaining games and will be holding talks with the Chinese delegation .

Three teams in Germany’s fourth-tier Regionalliga Suedwest league have refused to face the Chinese after their fans protested, but the other 16 clubs will each be paid 15,000 euros (£13,300) for the matches, reports say.

German media said the game was delayed for 25 minutes after the Chinese walked off.

The team eventually returned to the pitch after the flags were removed by the protestors, but the Chinese lost the game 3-0.

Rights groups say Tibetans chafe under China’s oppressive rule, while Beijing says it is brings wealth and investment to the south-western region.

Additional reporting by Christine Wei

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