The police will dispatch 1,200 officers to Mong Kok during Hong Kong’s November 17 World Cup qualifier match against China, according to Apple Daily—an amount equal to the police presence at last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests in the district.

When contacted by HKFP, a police spokesman refused to confirm the report, saying only that “an appropriate number” of officers will be sent to keep guard at the match at Mong Kok Stadium.

The Hong Kong team at the Shenzhen Baoan Stadium. Photo: HKFA.

Apple Daily cited an unnamed senior police officer as saying that it is “extremely rare” for the force to mobilise such large number of personnel for a single football game. Rather than being stationed inside the stadium, however, the report says most officers will be on standby elsewhere in the district.

Local fans’ booing of the Chinese national anthem prompted FIFA’s disciplinary body to fine and issue a warning to the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) in July. Last month, the HKFA told fans they will be barred from bringing juice boxes into the stadium after a fan hurled a carton of lemon tea onto the pitch during match against Qatar in September.

Around 4,000 tickets for the game were sold out less than three hours after sales opened last week. The high demand brought down the ticketing website and hundreds queued up at the stadium to buy discounted senior citizen and student tickets.

Chaos erupted at the ticket office when fans who failed to obtain tickets attempted to break into the venue. Elderly fans reportedly fainted due to hunger and fatigue.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia. Having scored ten points, Hong Kong currently occupies second place in Group C. The team’s last clash with China in September ended in a goalless draw in Shenzhen.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.