What did Asian Cup soccer tell us?

The Asian Cup 2004 soccer tournament ended on August 7 in China after a big controversy over some Chinese fans' behavior contrary to the notion of good sportsmanship that both players and supporters should maintain.

In Chongqing, where the Japanese team participated in the qualifying round and a quarter-final match, Chinese fans jeered Japanese fans and threw things at them. With the final match between Japan and China approaching in Beijing, the Chinese government took measures to prevent any more trouble from occurring. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan stated, "Extreme behavior by a handful of fans does not correspond with the spirit of most. China does not agree with or support such behavior."

Despite this, a portion of Chinese supporters after the final match caused a major disturbance: They blocked roads, broke the windows of a Japanese diplomat's car, surrounded the Japanese team bus, and threw things at the bus. This should not have happened because it only hurts the feelings of not only sports-loving people but also Japan-China friendship.

In sport games, players demonstrate their routinely-trained abilities and spirit of fair play. The wonderful thing is that players and fans on all sides praise each other after an all-out competition. This being a feature of sports, international sports exchanges can contribute to improving mutual understanding and friendship between peoples and to maintaining world peace. This is why politics must not intervene in sports.

Some Chinese fans' behavior may have represented resentments against Japanese militarism's war of aggression and occupation of China, but that's a wrong way to solve these historical problems. Historical issues should be resolved by political means but not in sports. Using sports as a place for protests as was the case with the recent affair will only help increase distrust between the peoples of Japan and China and obstruct a resolution to these issues.

As regards the historical issues that persist between Japan and China, they, of course, need a solution. Japan must openly admit that its past war of aggression was wrong and refrain from taking any action contrary to the solution of the historical issues, including Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro's visit to Yasukuni Shrine. It's important for both the Japanese and Chinese governments to try to solve all issues through peaceful talks.

In 2008, the Olympic Games will be held in Beijing. For its success, the recent events show the need for good sportsmanship to be established in China. It is a task to be accomplished by the entire Chinese society. (end)

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