It has been a long summer in Hong Kong. Some would say the longest ever. The hot and humid days seem to drag on forever and sometimes the nights seem to last an eternity.
Yet, despite everything, life continues, and it is the sense of familiarity and routines that many people seek comfort in. In the grand scale of things, while sports like football are not a priority by any means, yet very quietly in the background, the domestic football scene has kicked off.
Football itself is infused into the heart and soul of Hong Kong. The beautiful game has been the most popular sport both in viewership and participation. On any given day, across the many concrete pitches and artificial fields that are dotted across this urban jungle, thousands of people play outside for the love of the game and it is through football (or any sport) in which many seek their sense of community.
The Hong Kong Premier league may not draw in huge crowds though it is still part and parcel of everyday life. The league itself has continued unabated for decades and is a fabric of society here; genuine sports fans still enjoy the professional game for all its nuances, quirks and idiosyncrasies; the games will be played, it won’t be perfect and yet everyone understands.
Amidst the cacophony in Hong Kong, that the world cup qualifier against Iran actually went ahead was a minor victory in itself. There was the distinct possibility of the game being played at a dour neutral venue. With interest in the local game already dwindling; the game needed to be played at HK stadium so that true sports lovers could enjoy a grand occasion and give themselves a distraction for all that is currently going on.
In the game itself, Hong Kong performed admirably against arguably the finest team in Asia. At the end of the match, the ‘heroes’ on the field lapped up the applause from those in the stands. The team had gained back its self-respect and fans enjoyed an entertaining football match: a game which should be enjoyed by all.
Photos: Dennis Lo and CK Lau
Maybe the ones who should be saluted are the ones who made sure the game went ahead and, despite all the financial and organisational limitations of the domestic game, also ensured that the Hong Kong premier league kicked off in due course. Football may be just a game, but it is a game that many care about. Throughout any given week, at any level, matches (amateur, semi-professional and top-level) will go ahead, and thousands of players will take to the fields; it is part and parcel of life for many as is the sense of unity that sports can bring.
At the final whistle of the Iran game, some fans lingered to savour the moment and then headed out into the endless night. Tomorrow would be another day and who knows what tomorrow would bring.
It has been the longest summer ever, yet life goes on.