Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.
Hong Kong Edge Past Bhutan with Goal at the Death
Playing an international away game is always a challenge but that is always dependent on the opposition and the surroundings, that said, Hong Kong made hard work of what should have been a fairly straight forward match against a Bhutan team made up of part-time players and who they had previously swept away 7-0. Factors could be the higher altitude in which the Hong Kong players would not have time to adapt to, exhaustion after traveling to Thailand for a tiring 0-0 friendly draw or a fired up Bhutan side who pushed the Maldives all the way in a previous qualifier but fell short 3-4. Whatever the reason, Hong Kong struggled and labored to a very unconvincing yet crucial win.
After a plethora of missed chances and wasted opportunities, Hong Kong made their dominance and possession count in the 88th minute when Chan Siu Ki leapt the highest and connected a header to a lofty corner. The celebrations reflected the relief felt and Hong Kong will know that they will have to up their game as they face another stern test when they travel away to the Maldives and then take on China at home. Regardless of winning ugly, three more crucial points were secured as well as a HKD$ 300,000 win bonus to be split between the team.
Mong Kok Stadium to Host the China World Cup Qualifier on November 17th
The mouth-watering Hong Kong versus China World Cup Qualifier is to be played at Mong Kok Stadium on November 17th. This has come as a bitter blow to the majority of Hong Kong soccer fans as they hoped to cheer on the home team at the much larger capacity Hong Kong Stadium (40,000 capacity). This means many fans will now miss out on what could be one of the greatest sporting occasions in Hong Kong history.
The official reason for Hong Kong Stadium not being used is that with a brand new pitch being laid and Hong Kong just having renovation completed, the pitch will not be properly restored for the China game after it will be used for a Rugby 7s Olympic qualification competition due to be held on the 7th and 8th of November. This reasoning has not cut the mustard with many people as if you hark back the the early nineties, Hong Kong league and cup games were still played while Hong Kong stadium was being constructed!! Fans were often reduced to sitting on the concrete areas which were meant to hold seats but nevertheless they could see the game.
Some will speculate that given the social and political events of the past two years are still raw in the memory then the Hong Kong government have acted with safety and policing will taking precedent over other factors.
This situation has also left the Hong Kong Football Association frustrated as they have been pushing for the use of Hong Kong Stadium from the outset given that the stadium could have been sold out several times over with a much needed financial windfall that could have been invested back into the local game.
This begs the question if Hong Kong should be holding any further top level football games or sporting events as a nine to ten day turn-around period for pitch restoration should be more than sufficient given Hong Kong’s stadiums status as a top-level venue. The 2013 Premier League Asia Trophy held in Hong Kong was heavily criticized due to the state of the pitch which was deemed unplayable due to insufficient drainage which hampered the level of play and the safety of players. If the situation does not improve then Hong Kong may miss out on further opportunities for famous teams to come to Hong Kong in favor of countries with better facilities.
Eastern Set the Pace in the Premier League
At the time of writing, big spending Eastern are setting the pace in the Hong Kong Premier League. After serious splashing the cash to show their intentions, it seems to be money well spent though it has be noted that Eastern have also played more games then most of their rivals. Hong Kong Pegasus who have undergone a change in ownership and sponsor are currently second.
EPL All Stars Defeat a Hong Kong Legends Select
On October 15th, English Premier League legends such as Paul Scholes, Lee Sharpe, Robert Pires, Darren Anderton, Steven McManaman, Emmanuel Petit, Robbie Fowler, Steve Harkness, Des Walker and many more took on the Hong Kong Legends Team at Siu Sai Wan Sport Ground in what can only be described as a friendly and casual kick about as the two sides have clearly slowed down given the passage of time.
A healthy and highly enthusiastic crowd made a trip down memory lane as their local and overseas heroes from a previous generation conjured up a nine goal thriller. The pace was slower since but the action was relentless as the nostalgic crowd cheered on their heroes. The EPL All Stars scored five and those on the score sheet included Robert Pires (8’ 18’), Anderton (13’), an absolute piledriver from Scholes (26’) and a classic free-kick from Robbie Fowler (40+1’) which brought the house down.
The Hong Kong legends were not star struck and answered with four goals for themselves via Tam Siu Wai (29’), Wong Fuk Wing (39’ 75’) and Chiu Chung Man (68’). Alas the Hong Kong legends fight back fell short and the score ended 5-4 to the EPL All Stars who took home the Sky Kids EPL All Stars trophy.
A friendly atmosphere capped off a night of memories for both players and the crowds who seemed to enjoy this trip down memory lane.
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau, Ryan Kam, Ann Kristine Sen and HKFA
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer. Follow him on Twitter.