Football: Tension as Nanjing hosts Japanese team

Heightened security will be deployed Tuesday for a Japanese team's football match in Nanjing, where the worst atrocities of the brutal invasion of China by Japan's Imperial Army took place.

Tensions are expected to be high on the pitch for the AFC Champions League game between Japan's Vegalta Sendai and China's Jiangsu Sainty.

It is thought to be the first senior men's football game involving a Japanese team in Nanjing, where invading troops launched a brutal massacre in 1937.

"The players have privately said 'We all know the significance of facing a Japanese team at home in Nanjing'," said the website, the online mouthpiece of the local government.

Relations between the two countries are still heavily coloured by Japan's bloody wartime occupation, including the Nanjing Massacre in which 300,000 civilians and soldiers died, according to China.

Some foreign academics estimate a significantly lower death toll.

In the weeks running up to the game Chinese media reported there were plans to move it from the 60,000-seater Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre to another location in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

One Chinese report said Japan had asked China to guarantee the safety of the visiting team and its supporters in the city.

Another said Chinese authorities had urged the Japanese fans to use only designated buses to travel to the stadium, and asked visiting Japanese media to stay at the team hotel.

Reports in Japan also say fans attending the match have been warned to keep a low profile.

Up to 13,000 police and security were estimated to have been in place last month when Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande hosted Urawa Red Diamonds, one of Japan's most decorated clubs, in the pan-Asian competition.

Some media reported that the Jiangsu game would see even tighter security, but police in Nanjing would not comment on numbers when contacted by AFP.

Supporters have been told to expect strict searches coming into the area of the ground, with banners which have "nothing to do with football" among a range of items that will be confiscated by guards, according to one report.

Only a small number of Japanese fans are expected. About 100 tickets were sold via the club and a travel agent, although more may try to gain entry at the stadium.

On its website, the Japanese embassy in Beijing posted safety advice for fans travelling to China for Wednesday's clash between Beijing Guoan and Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

It pointed out that "anti-Japan demonstrations and other activities" happened in China last year amid a row over disputed islands, adding: "It is still necessary at present to be careful by refraining from speaking in Japanese in the streets or otherwise making yourself highly visible."

"Please be careful about what you say or do in China inside or outside the match venue, bearing in mind the recent situation," it said.

"When you cheer in the match, please cheer in a good manner without excessively jeering opposing players or supporters, or acting in a way that insults the opposing country."