In the mid-nineties, South China were the most established club side in Hong Kong with huge support. The “Caroliners” had a see-saw battle with arch-rivals Eastern and as the decade progressed, they slowly regained their status as the greatest club side in Hong Kong. One of the driving forces to their success was the Bosnian striker, Alen Bajkuša, whose goals and determination were a memorable part of a golden period of the now fallen giants.
Bajkuša came to Hong Kong via Malaysia from the city of Sarajevo and the move offered him a chance to leave the impending civil war which was about to engulf the then Yugoslavia. In an exclusive interview, Bajkuša was happy to share his memories of his time in Hong Kong and how he thrived during his time here.
Offside.hk: How did you end up playing football in Hong Kong?
“I came to Hong Kong from Malaysia. In the 1992 to 1993 season, I was in the Malaysian league. I came to Hong Kong in 1994 and I came from Penang. Anto Grabo (former South China player) played in Malaysia at the same time as me and Grabo come from the same place as me in Bosnia. When Grabo played in the Yugoslavian top division, I was a ball boy so I have known Grabo for many many years; Grabo was the one who went to Hong Kong first and then he called me to come to Hong Kong. He said “Alen, we need a striker” so I said, “Ok, I will come and why not!”
Offside.hk: Were you excited about the impending move to both South China and Hong Kong?
“When you talk about Hong Kong then everyone is excited especially when you come from Eastern Europe as Hong Kong is like New York to us so it was a good experience. At that time, I did not care which country I went to at that time, as my country had a civil war which started and I could not go back to my country so I had to find a club and stay where I can. There was no choice and there was no time to select at that time. I came from Bosnia and my home town was Sarajevo. I was lucky to come out of Sarajevo, I came out of there in February 1992 so only two months before the war started, I had left.”
Offside.hk: Eastern were your arch-rivals in the nineties. What were your memories of playing against them”
“At that time, Eastern in 1993, they were a strong team but in 1995 they were not as strong and I think only Dale tempest was still there. My first game in Hong Kong was the opening of the season cup final. That was the beginning of my time in Hong Kong.”
“It was a really good start for me and people got to know me and South China was the biggest club in Hong Kong at the time and to be at South China was a great experience with all the good local players and foreign players. I had a lot of memories.”
Offside.hk: What other memories do you have of playing for South China?
“I played at the official opening of HK stadium against Sao Paulo. I think they could have beaten us, 15-0 but each time we crossed the halfway line, we scored some goals!”
“The Hong Kong players were always really relaxed and compared to these times now; players are much more professional and they think a lot more about football than the guys then. I think not just in Hong Kong but all leagues in the world! Players are making big money so they are really into football. There are a lot more things aside from just playing football and players are also making easy money. At that time, we had five foreign players in a team and every team had a few good local and foreign players so I cant really say which one was the best player.”
“In every game, I played against Eastern, I always scored goals against them. In every game against the big teams, I always scored goals. I never missed scoring against Eastern!”
Offside.hk: South China are now semi-professional and in the lower divisions. What are your thoughts on this?
“South China are the biggest club in Hong Kong but not only Hong Kong so for them to play in the second division, it is really sad and these bosses should consider going back to the top division.”