South Korea Under-18s have been stripped of a trophy for “indecent” celebrations after a player posed for a photo with his foot on it.
South Korea beat China 3-0 to win the Panda Cup on Wednesday, but the team were forced to apologise after they were criticised online for the “unforgivable” images.
The topic had 59 million views on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
The tournament organisers suggested South Korea would not be invited back.
Chinese fans, who watched their team lose all three Panda Cup matches in Chengdu, expressed their anger as the social media topic ‘Panda Cup committee takes back South Korean national team’s trophy’ went viral.
“I swear, we will never forgive Korean football,” said one user, while another described the behaviour as “barbaric and vulgar”.
Most fans refused to accept the South Korea apology, led by the accused player, who was criticised for “mumbling” and dropping his apology on the floor.
Meanwhile, China’s state-run Global Times daily said the South Korea players “acted like conquerors rather than champions” as the team “ignored the universal ethos of sports”.
Some social media users also sarcastically called for the Chinese FA to display the trophy and controversial photo as a reminder of China’s shortcomings in international competitions.
The Global Times said: “The only way to stop similar incidents from happening is very simple: They must start winning.”
“Chinese football needs this whip!” one social media user said. “The photo should be hung up in the Chinese Football Association’s office until the Chinese team can beat them.”
‘Our players made a huge mistake’
The Chengdu Football Association, which organised the Panda Cup, released a statement accusing the South Korea players of “serious insult” and said it would be “taking back” the trophy.
The Chengdu FA released video footage of the team’s apology, in which the squad stood together with heads bowed in their hotel as the player involved apologised.
“We apologise for the situation. One of our players made a huge mistake. We humbly apologise to all of the fans, all of the players and all of the people in China,” a team official translated.
The Korean Football Association sent a letter of apology to the Chengdu FA, who have lodged a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation.
“Teams and players who violate sports ethics and spirit are not welcome to participate,” the Chengdu FA said.
South Korea beat all three other teams involved – New Zealand, Thailand and China – to win the competition.