Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua have launched an investigation after an individual wearing the team’s colours apparently waved a Japanese flag emblazoned with the Shenhua logo at a match between a rival Shanghai club and a Japanese side.
The incident took place at last week’s Asian Champions League match which saw Shanghai SIPG triumph 2-1 over J-League team Gamba Osaka in front of 29,000 fans at Shanghai Stadium.
Pictures of a masked fan wearing Shenhua apparel, and holding an altered rising sun flag coloured blue instead of red with the slogan “Attack Shanghai Stadium”, set social media alight due to enormous sensitivity in China over Japan’s actions during the second world war.
That the incident saw Shenhua make an official statement underlines how seriously China-Japan issues are taken in the country.
Shanghai Shenhua fans have a reputation for gate-crashing rival clubs’ games in the Asian Champions League. Last year Shenhua supporters appeared in Japan to support Urawa Reds against Beijing Guoan and were pictured making obscene gestures towards Beijing supporters.
And just last month in Australia, overseas Shenhua fans with a banner reading “Only Shenhua rep Shanghai” appeared in the crowd at a Melbourne Victory v Shanghai SIPG match. A significant percentage of Melbourne’s overseas Chinese population is said to be Shanghainese.
An official statement on Shanghai Shenhua’s website read, “Our club takes this sort of provocative and offensive action very seriously and we have launched an investigation.”
The club said if the offender was proven to be a Shenhua fan they would be banned from attending the club’s matches in the future. However, the club also questioned if the fan was really a Shenhua supporter, and asked for fans and media who may have pictured the fan to share any information with them.
“Our club did not organize any Shenhua fan visit to the match in question in any shape or form, furthermore, in advance of this match we heard that some individual may go to this game to do something to tarnish the good reputation of Shenhua supporters, so, via the relevant channels, we strongly advised our fans not to attend this match.”
It was also noted by the club that the individual was masked, suggesting that he knew his action would be offensive and therefore it may well have been premeditated. Elsewhere online, Shenhua fans suggested that is was a deliberate stunt orchestrated by an SIPG fan to discredit Shenhua. However, there was no evidence presented of this.
The controversial actions in Melbourne, and during the SIPG match against Gamaba Osaka, saw Shenhua supporters vilified on social media for supporting foreign teams against non-Chinese teams with vitriolic abuse of nationalistic nature – Shanghainese people are often accused by other Chinese of lacking patriotism.