Subjectivity in HK Football TeamTranslated by Vivian L., written by Brian FONG Chi-hang
- Hong Kong held China to a 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier match on Tuesday night at Mong Kok Stadium
Hong Kong’s World Cup qualifier match against China came to an end on Tuesday night as the city’s team battled its rival to a valiant 0-0 draw. Prospect for team Hong Kong aside, we have witnessed the birth of a new era as the games progressed—a new age of the "Hong Kong subjectivity".
To say football [or soccer as the Americans say] has nothing to do with politics is a lie that cannot fool anyone with half a brain. In fact, football [translator's comment: or any team sports for that matter] more often than not embodies the nexus between sports and politics. Football is the battleground between bitter rivals both on and off court (for example England─Argentina or Japan─South Korea). It also reflects the conflicts between a state's centralised power and its peripheral groups (centre-periphery conflicts).
Political scientist Benedict Anderson defined a nation as an imagined community [translator’s note: In contrast with an actual community where members interact with each other face-to-face, an imagined community is constructed socially, and imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group]. Awareness of such a community is usually through symbols.
Star players pegging away on the pitch, fans cheering for their heroes, team flags and banners filling every corner of the fully seated stadium—the game of football provides the perfect concoction of the construction of subjectivity of the “periphery” community.
Examples of centre-periphery conflicts exemplified in football symbolisms are abundant.
Football clubs Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao are both the mascots and arenas of the Catalans' and the Basques' defiance against the Spanish state. In Verona, Italy, one lives and breathes a sense of the proud Venetian identity. Go to a Cardiff City game and you will see the mutual grudge between the Welsh and the English in action. Over in the French cities of Bastia and Rennes, the regional identities of the people of Corsica and Brittany cannot be more apparent in their home teams.
Today’s Team Hong Kong may not be the best squad in the city’s history, but it is certainly the team that carries the strongest sense of subjectivity of the Hong Kong identity. The match-up between HK and China inadvertently set the stage where Hongkongers defied “the Chinese Celestial Empire” at a time when China’s oppression towards the city is in full throttle while Hongkongers reap an ever-strong sense of Hong Kong subjectivity.
As team HK delivered two electrifying draws against China, every cheer and chant that echoed all around the city marked the birth of the Hong Kong Subjectivity. Our time has come and the political discourse between Hong Kong and China will never be the same.
(Author Dr. Brian FONG Chi-hang is the Associate Director of the Academy of Hong Kong Studies at The Hong Kong Institute of Education)