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 Versus China – An Own Goal for the Local Game
The most significant Hong Kong versus China football match ever played and probably Hong Kong’s most anticipated international game in history will be a meaningful and exciting occasion.
But frankly it could have been the the grandest of moments and the possibly the most famous single sporting event in Hong Kong history but uncontrollable factors have come into play and the game is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.
It seems the game itself has taken a back seat, lost in a sea of seemingly shrewd political power plays, poor infrastructure and mismanagement. Even the Hong Kong Football Association who have pushed for the game to be at Hong Kong Stadium have been left frustrated by the turn of events in what would have been a great boost to Hong Kong football, a tremendous revenue earner and attracted fans back to the local game. A packed out 40,000 capacity crowd to cheer Hong Kong on is simply not to be.
Hong Kong for all its glitz and glamour simply lags behind the world in terms of sporting culture and well, what happened in terms of the ticketing and pitch embarrassment, is all kind of expected by long term residents and ultimately the ones who lose out are the thousands upon thousands of Hong Kong fans willing and ready to throw their support behind the national team and the local game itself.
Before this hugely disappointing, perplexing and bewildering yet strangely not totally surprising turn of affairs; the buzz and talk on the street was of eager anticipation and excitement; people with zero interest in the game were intrigued and pretty much everyone wanted to go to the game and Hong Kong stadium could have been sold out several times over.
Hong Kong and its long suffering sports fans could finally be able to experience what so many of their overseas counterparts experience week in and week out; a meaningful sporting occasional where a sense of community could be experienced, sounds simple enough but this hardly occurs in Hong Kong and people often throw support to overseas teams they have zero connection with. This game is and still is the ‘big’ one; this would be the derby of all derby games and given the recent social and political events of the past year or two then the fervour and anticipation for next week has been ramped up to the max. They say that politics and sports should never mix but often and inevitably they do.
Fans envisioned a Hong Kong stadium packed with 40,000 Hong Kong fans (and an away contingent) willing, pleading and praying for Hong Kong to score and holding their breathe against yet another China attack. TV audiences would witness a sea of red and white Hong Kong shirts, flags, drums and an atmosphere to savor for a lifetime. Again, it is simply not to be.
Sure, Hong Kong fans could watch Inter Vs AC, Real Versus Barcelona and other derbies from afar but this one would finally be one that would be personal. As mentioned, this could have been a truly historical occasion and it still will be and of course it could be an incredible game but what could have been a grand affair will be somewhat muted. The sad thing is that no one is that surprised at all and anticipated this all and the local game is poorer for it.
Hong Kong Football Fans Left Frustrated as Online Ticket Systems Crashes While Newly Laid Pitch Under Scrutiny
For the thousands of Hong Kong football looking to get an exclusive and reasonably priced ticket for the China home game, many were met with a crashing server and again, nothing but disappointment and growing anger. To get a ticket you either had to brave the elements and line up overnight outside Mong Kong stadium to get a pair of concessionary tickets (1000 available) or log on at 10am for the online ticket provider Cityline who were recently criticized for being unable to handle the online demand for the Qatar game in September. Many decided to go with the latter and the weight of demand for the 3000 online tickets was simply too much to handle and frustration was expressed across social media. Somehow through the online chaos, the 3000 tickets were all sold out by just past noon. In previously never seen security measures, Hong Kong fans will have to show their ID card to pick up their tickets on a few specific days while on game night itself, Mong Kok Stadium will open at 5.30 pm for security checks on fans.
There will also be 500 away China fans in attendance so there are many police expected. This match has been talked about and discussed for months and certain sectors of the Hong Kong media will whip up interest in the game, so expect a large segment of Hong Kong, even those with no interest in fooball, to watch the game on TV in bars and homes across Hong Kong.
The much maligned Hong Kong Stadium pitch came under very close scrutiny this past weekend at the rugby sevens olympic qualifying tournament and it seems the on-going problems of the surface easily cutting up have returned which begs the question, has no one learned their lesson and where have all the millions of dollars set aside to transform the pitch into a world class one gone? The short-sighted thinking will prevent famous teams from coming to town if Hong Kong simply fails to provide standards and quality in line with the rest of the world and the fact that Hong Kong can’t simply reflects poorly on the city and will prevent the growth of a sports culture and mean loss of sporting opportunities as overseas teams and tournaments head elsewhere.
Five Goal Salvo for Hong Kong Over Myanmar in Friendly
Hong Kong gave themselves a nice confidence boosting 5-0 win over Myanmar this past Saturday at a near capacity Mong Kok stadium. With a crucial away game in the Maldives this week and the eagerly anticipated and politically sensitive China home game set for November 17th, this was perfect to mentally prepare themselves. With some newly naturalized players (Have lived in Hong Kong for seven years) such as Alex Akande, Paulinho and Sandro in the squad, this was a time for experimentation to ease in the new players.
Hong Kong were on form with their fluid passing game and roared on by an enthusiastic home crowd, Jaimes Mckee, Chan Siu Ki, Alessandro Ferreiria and Oluwatayo Akande were all on target.
It looked to be the perfect send off before two of Hong Kong’s most crucial games in history and the friendly and relaxed Mong Kok crowd went home in a jovial mood; expect the atmosphere to have a greater edge when the home side take on China but surely it won’t be 1985 again?
Win, draw or lose, it will be an occasion to savor with a huge audience in both Hong Kong and China.
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer. Follow him on Twitter
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