History HK Team Stories

Hong Kong Legend: The Life of Wu Kwok Hung (1949-2015)

Born on 22 May 1949, Wu Kwok Hung (胡國雄) spent his childhood in the pitches of Blake Garden, a small park in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island, where he developed his skills with other kids from the neighbourhood. Soon he joined the local youth team and although he still had to take up a full time job during his teenage years, he had never any doubt that football would be the centre of his life. 

After winning the Youth Cup (Senior Class) with his Blake Garden teammates in 1968, he joined the reserve team of Tung Sing FC (The club still exists and is currently 3rd Division  champion). Just one year later in 1969, he was nominated to play for the Hong Kong U-19 representative team and participated in the AFC U-19 Championship, which was held in Thailand. In 1971, South China and Fire Services FC both showed interest in acquiring the young talent, and Wu had to make a draw, with the luckier end for the Caroliners. During his first and only season with South China, during which he earned HK$ 1,600 per month, the 1.80 metres tall midfielder won three trophies for the club: the 1st Division league title, the Senior Challenge Shield and the Viceroy Cup.

In 1972, the legendary Seiko SA team was promoted to Hong Kong’s top flight and Thai entrepreneur and club president Keeree Kanjanapas (黃創山) agreed to pay Wu an annual salary of HK$40,000 (Later on, during the peak of his career at Seiko, he earned up to HK$ 25,000 per month). Unsurprisingly, the investment paid off. In the 1972/73 season Seiko collected 4 titles with Wu’s help (League Title, Senior Challenge Shield, Viceroy Cup, Stanley Shield). Throughout his 14-year spell at the club, he collected more than 40 trophies along top players such Dutch internationals Dick Nanninga, René van de Kerkhof, Joop Wildbret and Arie Haan.

In 1978 Brazilian giants Cruzeiro laid their eyes on Wu after a friendly match in Hong Kong, but he eventually rejected the offer due to health and language concerns (Wu allegedly suffered from a chronic liver disease, which might have been a result of his lifestyle). Nevertheless, between 1978 and 1982, he received the “Hong Kong Top Footballer Award” for four consecutive times.

Wu, who carried the No. 10 on his back and was commonly known under the nickname “Big Head”, has also been praised for his contribution on the international stage, on which he appeared 52 times for the representative team and scored 10 goals. While World Cup Finals remained out of reach for Hong Kong, there have been some memorable attempts to qualify. In 1977, Wu was initially injured, missing the first matches of the 1978 World Cup Qualifier, but once recovered he helped Hong Kong to outbid Singapore and advance to the Final Round. Unforgotten remains the game on 19 May 1985, when Hong Kong unexpectedly beat China in Beijing 2:1, destroying the dreams of China’s first World Cup attendance in a dramatic match at Workers’ Stadium. Although Wu didn’t score that night, he was a crucial factor for the victory.

Wu retired in 1986 and has since then several business attempts, however, with limited success. But no matter what, every year he and his former team mates came together to celebrate the May 19 victory over China. Unfortunately he was not able to attend this year’s 30th anniversary due to his health condition.

On 15 June 2015 Wu Kwok Hung passed away from laryngeal cancer.

Related offside.hk article: Remembering Wu Kwok Hung: Personal Memories

Photo: BBC.com

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