China accused of disturbing act during Socceroos game at World Cup

China's state broadcaster, pictured here censoring shots of the crowd during Australia's clash with Tunisia at the World Cup.
China's state broadcaster censored shots of the crowd during Australia's clash with Tunisia at the World Cup. Image: SBS/Getty

China has apparently been caught censoring broadcasts of World Cup games in Qatar in an attempt to hide shots of fans in the crowd without masks on. A number of examples have emerged online of state broadcaster CCTV Sports allegedly showing a different feed to that shown to the rest of the world during live matches.

One video posted to Twitter by author and China sports 'insider' Mark Dreyer shows the different feeds shown in China and Australia during the Socceroos' clash with Tunisia on Saturday. When the SBS feed shown in Australia displayed shots of the crowd, the CCTV Sports feed instead stayed with the players on the field or the coaches on the sideline.

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Other videos posted online reveal CCTV Sports only showing distant shots of fans in the crowd, but no close-ups. A video from Wales' draw with the USA also appears to show the crowd blurred at one stage.

CCTV Sports and SBS feeds, pictured here during the Socceroos game at the World Cup.
The top shows what the world saw during the Socceroos game, while the bottom shows what those in China were shown. Image: CCTV Sports/SBS

According to reports, the state broadcaster has taken the extreme measure after citizens in China were left fuming over footage of tens of thousands of spectators not wearing masks. China has been plunged back into lockdown due to Covid-19, with citizens raging that they are still required to stay at home nearly three years into the pandemic.

"This is amazing. Due to the backlash from Chinese fans seeing unmasked crowds in Qatar, Chinese TV is now replacing live crowds shots during games and instead cutting to close-ups of players and coaches," Dreyer wrote on Twitter.

Protests have been simmering in Shanghai as residents in several Chinese cities, many of them angered by a deadly fire in the country's far west, push back against heavy Covid-19 measures. A fire on Thursday that killed 10 people in a high-rise building in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, has sparked widespread public anger as many internet users surmised residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down - a claim city officials denied.

China is battling a surge in Covid cases that has prompted lockdowns and other restrictions in cities across the country as Beijing adheres to a zero-Covid policy even as much of the world tries to co-exist with the virus. China defends the zero-Covid policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

In complete contrast, fans from around the world have been allowed to walk around and mingle freely in Qatar at the World Cup. There are no mask requirements and no caps on the crowds allowed at games.

Socceroos on cusp of history at World Cup

The Socceroos' win over Tunisia sees them sitting second in their group on three points, with France well clear on six and already qualified for the knockout stage. Denmark and Tunisia are trailing on one point each.

A win or draw for the Socceroos against Denmark on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEDT) would see them become just the second Australian side to make it to the knockout stage of a World Cup. However a loss would see Denmark advance at the Socceroos' expense.

"It's a moment they'll remember for the rest of their lives," Graham Arnold said about his players after the win over Tunisia. "I just want them to enjoy. That is what I said to the boys before the game: let's put a smile on the nation's face.

"There's one or two teams that bring the nation together and that's the Socceroos and the Matildas. When the Socceroos play at the World Cups, AFL fans, rugby league fans, they will become football fans.

"I can imagine the celebrations going on back home ... there will be a few hangovers in the morning."

However Arnold has put a dampener on celebrations, reminding his players that nothing has been achieved yet. He added: "When I got the boys in a circle after the game, I told them: 'I'm very proud but we have achieved nothing at the moment'.

"We can talk after about a win that hasn't been done for 12 years, but we're here to go as far as we can go. That one game is done and I don't want any notion from the players. I don't want them sitting up all night looking at social media and all that stuff. It's about sleeping well, recovering well and getting the mindset ready for Denmark."

with AAP

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