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Red cards in Hong Kong

Why does Chase Manhattan Bank's television commercial feature Manchester United slotting goals into the net to a Cantonese commentary? The footage appears courtesy of the biggest football match in Hong Kong this year, which Chase sponsored and made possible - the clash between English champions Manchester United, and the top Hong Kong side South China. Chase is believed to have spent HK$10 million ($1.3 million) to persuade Manchester's "red devils" to come to post-handover Hong Kong.

The much-anticipated game finished with United winning 1-0 thanks to a late header. But if the result was predictable, the make-up of the crowd was less so. Of the 40,000 spectators about 23,000 were Chase credit card holders.

Since demand for tickets so exceeded supply, there was controversy over the way that Chase was able to corner the bulk of the allocation and give its cardholders preferential access.

Manchester United has an enormous following among the Hong Kong Chinese. Much of this is due to its phenomenal success in the 1990s. The team last played in Hong Kong in 1986, but on that occasion only 4,575 turned up to see a patchier United side draw 2-2 with South China in a game that offered limited scope for adding new credit card customers.

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