In a match that will probably be more than just about football, China’s Jiangsu Sainty hosts Japanese side Vegalta Sendai in Nanjing, the town where the reverberations of a brutal wartime massacre by Japanese soldiers are still being felt today. This is the first senior men’s football match in the city which features a Japanese side, so tensions are high and security is tight.
The soccer fixture is part of the group stage matches of the AFC Champions League, the premiere Asian club football competition. It is the first match to be hosted by the Champions League debuting Jiangsu, but that achievement will most likely be overshadowed by the historical tensions of this clash. Although only 100 tickets have been purchased by fans of the Japanese club online and a small number is expected to show up in the 60,000 seater stadium, thousands of police and security are being deployed at the venue. The Japanese embassy in Beijing has also told Japanese people living in China to keep a low profile during this match, as well as the Wednesday fixture between Beijing Guoan and Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Japan has reportedly asked for security precautions for the visiting team and its fans. In response, Chinese authorities have advised fans to only use designated buses to travel to the stadium, and the Japanese media to stay with the team at the hotel assigned to them. Even shops and food outlets are expected to be closed for the match.
These preparations and precautions might seem overkill, but given the state of relations between the two countries of late, you can never be too sure. Anger towards Japan over the Nanjing massacre, where China claims 300,000 civilians and soldiers died (several foreign scholars say the number is lower), is still apparent to this day. Fans posting on the Vegalta’s site are hoping that there will be no problems and that it will just be a great football match between two great teams.[ via Asia One ]