Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Wednesday he did not talk about the Hong Kong-China World Cup qualifier match with President Xi Jinping in a meeting in Manila.
Leung and Xi held talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Philippines capital.
In a press conference following the meeting, a reporter asked Leung if he and the president watched the game on Tuesday night, which drew attention on both sides of the border.
“No, just now we did not talk about watching football at all,” Leung said.
Pressed by another reporter on which side he supported, Leung evaded the question again, saying he supports “not only Hong Kong players, but also the development of our nation’s sports cause.”
The Hong Kong-China clash saw tens of thousands of fans, both inside the Mong Kok Stadium and at more than a dozen venues across the city, proudly declaring their identity by shouting “We are Hong Kong” throughout the game.
Signs proclaiming “Hong Kong is not China” were also held up by fans at the stadium.
The match ended in a goalless draw, which was celebrated as a victory by the Hong Kong side as it meant the city remained above China in Group C, although chances of either team advancing into the next stage are slim.
Leung said Xi gave a nod to his work and encouraged Hong Kong to grasp opportunities provided by Beijing’s 13th five-year development plan and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
Leung also met with government leaders from New Zealand, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia to discuss issues of mutual concern. He is expected to wrap up the trip and return to Hong Kong on Thursday evening.