Chinese soccer fans furious after Manchester derby gets canceled

Haze Fan; special to

Chinese soccer fans were left furious Monday after a long-awaited Manchester derby in the Beijing Bird's Nest stadium was abruptly canceled just hours before kickoff.

"The International Champions Cup China, Manchester United versus Manchester City match is cancelled due to the extreme weather events in Beijing over a multiple day period. The committee and both teams make the decision together in the interest of player safety," organizers Catalyst LeEco Sports said in an official statement.

"Due to international travel schedules and planned sporting commitments, the match cancellation is definitive and the match will not be re-scheduled."

Heavy rainfall overnight is believed to be the reason the pre-season match was called off, despite it being sunny and around 32 degrees Celsius in the hours leading up the the game.

At China's National Stadium - which hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - groups of fans wearing the kits of both teams were seen walking towards the event, unaware of the last-minute pullout by the top two English Premier League teams.

The anger from the Chinese media and soccer fans was compounded when the two teams canceled a news conference where they were due to to address journalists regarding the unpopular decision to cancel.

'How can they so brutally call it off?'

Outside the ground, one Manchester United fan, Li Yiming, told CNBC he was very angry after traveling all the way to Beijing from the Gansu province in far western China.

"How can they so brutally call it off? I have been waiting for months ... and the weather is just fine," he said.

Ticket sales of the friendly match sold out a month ago, according to reports. The official prices ranged from 400 renminbi ($59.9) to 5,000 renminbi ($748.5), whereas the scalpers raised that number to as much as 20,000 renminbi in some online marketplaces. Angry comments from fans have been flooding social media since news of the cancellation.

"They really have no respect for Chinese fans at all! Why did they say so just hours ahead of the game?" A internet user called Student Yang Xiaofan said.

Netizen Liu Ningning didn't hold back either: "I don't mind spending money on the ticket, I don't have to watch the game, but you should send your players in the stadium or even just have them walking a lap around the field," he wrote.

Meanwhile Li Mingcheng criticized the two teams: "I am at downtown. If you look around, Man United fans are everywhere. I can understand the so-called weather issue or pitch issue. But the two teams didn't just find it out today. It is extremely inappropriate to fail 80,000 fans who have bought the tickets."

'Now I only want to cry'


Some others just felt sad, a social media user called Arsenal Giround posted a comment right after the announcement: "I just got off the train. Now I only want to cry."

Many fans called on a boycott for the upcoming game between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in Shenzhen in a few days' time.

Employees from the organizers told CNBC that weather was not really the reason for the two teams to cancel the game, but the poor quality of the pitch. A number of loyal fans showed their understanding and blamed the organizers and the low-quality pitch for causing the cancellation, rather than the two teams.

Despite calling off a press conference, Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, greeted and talked to journalists for around five minutes. When asked why his team came to China, he said it had "come here for the fans."

An appropriate refund policy will be put in place by local partners, according to the organizers.