Football in Hong Kong, like the whole world, has faced challenges in recent times. Locally, professional games are being played behind closed doors while amateur and semi-professional games have all but ground to a halt. These actions are understandable, as the beautiful game, for the endless happiness and heartache it can bring, is just a game.
The local game, never truly in a commanding position and sometimes, clutching at straws, has been further hindered by the necessary cancellation and rescheduling of matches. In recent decades, Hong Kong matches have struggled to attract fans which, in turn, means a lack of a steady revenue stream and a less attractive ‘product’ for marketing and investment purposes. Given the current situation, attendances have plunged and there is a looming fear of team sponsors pulling out (all medium to small teams will face the same) due to sudden financial difficulties. The glory days for the game in Hong Kong are a distant memory and the band-aids that have covered the ‘wounds’ could become further exposed once the league fully resumes.
On the international world cup qualifying stage, Mixu Paatelainen’s team had fought hard against Bahrain, Iran and Iraq and won their home game against Cambodia; despite a testing time during the East Asian football finals in South Korea, the team had improved. After some promising results, the Hong Kong team’s momentum could be lost as international games are placed on hold. The cancellation of the latest round of World Cup qualifier games is, of course, necessary as the risks are too high and travel impossible. Across the continents, fans will understand the responses made as the whole world shuts down.
Despite all the doom and gloom, for better or for worse, Hong Kong is still staging matches and is probably one of the few places in the world to do so. Yes, behind closed doors, the magic of the FA Cup lives on in Hong Kong.
Long-suffering football fans in Hong Kong, already used to low expectations, can possibly take heart in the famous football anthem, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ adopted by a club, Mixu Paatelainen himself, has both played for and managed in his past; namely Hibernian FC from Edinburgh in Scotland.
The song by ‘The Proclaimers’, Scottish brothers Craig and Charlie Reid, speaks about yearning for a sense of belonging, overcoming tough times and seeking happiness in difficult situations where the sun will inevitably ‘shine’ through the dark clouds and shadows of life.
Globally, maybe the human experience is all about savouring moments of joy, amongst endless obstacles. Regardless of what team a person supports, disappointment is always guaranteed and some would argue that football supporters spend the majority of their time ‘grasping’ onto the few moments of joy that their team provides them. Suffering is part and parcel of the game though there is beauty in loyalty as well……
The poignant nature of the anthem, ‘Sunshine on Leith’, (Video below: 25 seconds onwards) was not lost in 2016 when Hibernian finally, enduring a century and more of waiting, won the Scottish Cup again (defeating Rangers 3-2) after over 100 years from their last win in the same competition in 1902.
(From 25 Seconds Onwards) Sunshine On Leith sung by fans after 2016 Final
The fans, who endured and were not ‘glory hunters’, could finally ‘sing’ with relief and contentment that they had witnessed history over 100 years in the making; the agony of waiting was over. Generations had probably come and gone dreaming about this moment though time would pass them by and tears were probably shed for them.
After 114 years of repeated disappointments, misery and near misses, the Scottish cup came back to Easter Road in Leith, Edinburgh. Some thought this win was impossible, though now a new generation of fans would now have stories to share and memories to cherish. Maybe the long wait was worth it…..
Football in Hong Kong, as what it is, and it will never claim to be anything more yet it is the lifeblood for many people and a source of comfort, passion and happiness. Like fans everywhere, some people can support a team their entire ‘lives’ and their team will just continually wreak misery on them; people wonder why they even bother and yet it is the ‘magic’ of the game and a sense of loyalty which keeps luring people back.
All sports fans will know that the beauty and poignancy involved in the ‘beautiful game’ lie in the few moments of jubilation and triumph that are few and far between.
Maybe the sun will soon ‘shine’ on Hong Kong football (and the entire world) again…..
“Sunshine On Leith” by the Proclaimers
‘My heart was broken, my heart was broken
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
My heart was broken, my heart was broken’
‘You saw it,
You claimed it
You touched it,
You saved it’
‘My tears are drying, my tears are drying
Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you
My tears are drying, my tears are drying’
‘Your beauty and kindness
Made tears clear my blindness
While I’m worth my room on this earth
I will be with you’
‘While the Chief, puts Sunshine On Leith
I’ll thank him for his work
And your birth and my birth.’