In the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Nov. 21, the Chinese national soccer team lost 0–3 to South Korea while playing a home match at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center. Some Chinese spectators booed South Korea’s national anthem and pointed lasers at its players during the game, prompting a Korean university professor
to file an official complaint to FIFA.
Before the match between China and South Korea started, Chinese fans booed the South Korean national anthem loudly, and during the game, South Korean players were frequently seen on screen with green laser beams on their faces.
Furthermore, videos circulating on social media show some Chinese fans hurling insults and flipping off South Korean fans who were holding their national flag.
The South Korean soccer team’s captain and star player, Son Heung-min, plays for the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. Video clips shared on social media show Tottenham fans
being attacked by Chinese soccer hooligans after Son scored in the match.
Seo Kyung-duk, a South Korean professor at Sungshin Women’s University, said on social media that he had filed an official complaint to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), alleging that the Chinese Football Association violated FIFA Disciplinary Codes when its fans booed the opposing team’s national anthem and pointed lasers at players, resulting in unwarranted obstruction of the match.
The complaint referred to the Chinese fans’ behavior as “outrageous acts of obstruction that should not be permitted during the match.”
FIFA, the governing body of international football (soccer), has routinely fined national soccer associations for its fans booing national anthems and unruly behavior.
Despite the hooliganism reportedly displayed by some Chinese fans, Son applauded
and waved at Chinese fans after the match. Son is not only praised for his skills but also his humility, kindness, and tolerance. He often talks about the moral values instilled by his father.
Regarding the behavior of the Chinese spectators, Li Yuanhua, a China expert and former associate professor at the Beijing Normal University in China, told The Epoch Times: “A soccer game exposes the low morale of some Chinese fans. During the match, it was very dangerous to point lasers at the eyes of the opposing team’s players, but many people did it anyway. Unfortunately, the CCP has demoralized the Chinese people. Conversely, the South Korean player Son Heung-min demonstrated well-mannered sportsmanship in direct contrast to the Chinese fans.”
Since November 2022, the former head coach of the national soccer team, Li Tie, and at least 10 officials were placed under investigation by China’s top disciplinary watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
The CCDI acknowledged
in a statement on April 8 the existence of systemic corruption in soccer and other sports.
The Chinese national soccer team has only qualified once for the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Historically, the Chinese team usually lost to Japan and South Korea in World Cup Qualifiers and other matches, resulting in a long-term rivalry.
In the past, Chinese soccer hooligans have rioted
after losing in critical matches. In the 2004 Asian Cup final, Chinese fans clashed with riot police in Beijing after losing to Japan. In 1985, similar riots broke out when China lost to Hong Kong in the World Cup Qualifiers. In recent years, increased incidents of soccer hooliganism
have also been reported in the China Super League matches.
The CCP’s ultranationalist propaganda partly fueled the fans’ frustration over the Chinese national team’s humiliating losses. Due to Japan’s alliance with the United States, the CCP frequently promoted anti-Japanese propaganda in the past decades. After South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol won the presidential election in 2022, Soeul took a tougher stance against Beijing
regarding Taiwan and the South China Sea, resulting in frequent rebukes from China.
The CCP promotes its narrative on such geopolitical issues through state media, fostering strong ultranationalist sentiments among the populace. China observers note that these sentiments often manifest during sports events due to the communist regime’s strict control, limiting exposure to alternative viewpoints and suppressing dissent.