Japan-China Soccer Game Requires Heavy Security Following Protests

Stadium uses police in riot gear, plus paramilitary presence, empty sections to separate fans


JINAN, China -- A soccer match between rival Japanese and Chinese teams ended peacefully Wednesday as hundreds of police in riot helmets stood guard to prevent possible violence following anti-Japan protests across China last month.

There were no disruptions during the Asian Champions League match between Japan's Yokohama F Marinos and China's Shandong Luneng in this eastern Chinese city. A light board above the field flashed the message "Be model fans" in Chinese.

Shandong won 2-1, keeping it undefeated in its group and guaranteeing it a spot in the quarterfinals of the Asian championships.

"This is a big win," said Chi Bing, a 23-year-old accountant. "I'm especially happy because Japanese players are among the best in Asia. I didn't think the Chinese team would win."

As for the heavy police presence, Chi said: "I guess it was necessary because it's an international match and also the history between China and Japan is not so good."

But, "the Chinese fans were good," he said. "We didn't cause any trouble."

About 100 paramilitary troops with riot helmets and shields ringed the field and hundreds of uniformed police sat in the stands. Large sections of the 43,700-seat stadium were empty, apparently to keep Japanese and Chinese fans separated.

Japan requested tight security for the game after protesters last month broke windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai in demonstrations over Japan's World War II history and its campaign for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat.

The Jinan match was the highest-profile event in China involving Japan since the protests. The city is about 350 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of the Chinese capital.

Police guarded the Japanese team's hotel and the official Xinhua News Agency said officers accompanied a group of 100 Japanese fans who arrived with the Yokohama club.

"The priority is to ensure the safety of Japanese fans," Xinhua said.

Chinese fans booed and cursed at the Yokohama team during practice on Monday, the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports reported. It said someone set off a firecracker near the field after practice had ended.

In Jinan, a police statement on the club's Web site warned fans not to throw things or shout "uncivilized slogans." It said any violence would be "punished severely."

On Wednesday, police barred fans from bringing bags, water bottles or cigarette lighters into the stadium. Officers confiscated a reporter's pen and paper.

After the game, hundreds of fans had to line up for hours to pick up their checked bags. Paramilitary police stood shoulder to shoulder keeping a tight watch on the crowd. The streets around the stadium were closed to traffic.

Last year, Chinese fans at Asian Cup matches in Beijing booed the Japanese national anthem and pelted Japanese fans with garbage.

Shandong leads Group F in the 2005 Asian Champions League with 15 points, having won its first five matches, including a 1-0 away win over Yokohama F Marinos in March. The Marinos are in second place, with nine points from three wins and two losses.