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(LEAD) Chinese football fans arrive in Seoul for World Cup qualifier

All Headlines 19:23 August 31, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 6, 8)

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- Groups of Chinese football fans arrived in South Korea through Incheon International Airport, the country's main gateway, on Wednesday, the eve of the two countries' World Cup qualifier in Seoul.

South Korea, ranked 48th in the latest FIFA world rankings, will host No. 78 China at 8 p.m. Thursday at Seoul World Cup Stadium to open their final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The Chinese Football Association had originally asked its South Korean counterpart to allocate 30,000 tickets for its football fans, but the Korea Football Association (KFA) decided to give 15,000 seats instead.

"Though South Korea are strong, I believe we can win if our players do their best," said a Chinese college student who arrived at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Wednesday morning along with some 30 other tourists.

The local sports industry expects another 15,000 Chinese currently living in South Korea to attend the match. Combined with the travelers, the Chinese could fill nearly half of some 66,000 seats at the stadium.

This means a new record could be set for the number of foreign supporters visiting South Korea for a football match. In November 1997, some 10,000 Japanese football fans showed up at Jamsil Olympic Main Stadium in Seoul to watch the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifier against South Korea.

During last year's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League between South Korea's Seongnam FC and China's Guangzhou Evergrande, some 5,000 Chinese football fans filled Tancheon Sports Complex in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Police said they are still reviewing how many forces to mobilize to ensure the safety of the players and spectators.

To counter the Chinese fans, the KFA said it will give 20,000 red-colored shirts to South Korean supporters for free. Both teams are represented by red, but on Thursday, South Korean players will wear their red jerseys while the Chinese players will put on yellow uniforms.

"We don't want the Chinese fans to represent red, which is the symbol of South Korean football," an official from KFA said. "Those who have tickets for the North and East sections will receive red shirts on a first-come, first-served basis."

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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