“I took Charlie to the match. She’s a fan of Ruud Gullit” – Fallen Angels, Sampdoria, Sing Tao FC, Ralph Milne, Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto and the Endless Rain

Takeshi Kaneshiro + Michelle Reis in 'Fallen Angels' (1995) - Photo: Screenmusings.org

“On June 22nd, 1995……the Italian team Sampdoria came to play in Hong Kong.” – Fallen Angels (1995)

Rarely do film, romance and sport mix in a socio-cultural context though in a rare brief moment in the mid-nineties, famous auteur Wong Kai Wai and his acclaimed movie, ‘Fallen Angels’, managed to blend the magic of cinema, the drama of sports and an urban love story into an unique kaleidoscope visual feast set in Hong Kong.

Trailer for Fallen Angels 

‘Fallen Angels’ shows the metropolis as an urban nocturnal dreamscape and is one of Wong Kar Wai’s heartfelt love letters to Hong Kong.

The film features intertwined stories and is an accompanying piece to the universally acclaimed ‘ChungKing Express.’

Trailer for ChungKing Express


An Urban Dreamland of Lost Souls 

Fallen Angels’ Poster – Photo: imdb.com

‘Fallen Angels’, set entirely at night, is an interconnected film (with ChungKing Express) with a range of unique characters making fleeting appearances yet whom all impact each other’s lives.

Video: Beach House – Space Song – Chungking Express – Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow and more)

Wong’s cinematic vision (with Chris Doyle – Cinematographer + editing by William Chang and Ming Lam Wong) was one of a whimsical dream world of lost, lonely and disconnected souls searching for meaning in the aesthetic and effervescent neon-lit canvas that Hong Kong forms.

Video: Song from the soundtrack of Fallen Angels 

The plot follows an assassin (Leon Lai) who wants to go clean and find a new vocation while, secretly, his partner (Michelle Reis) yearns for him. Within the same plot maze is a ‘lost soul’ Ho Chi Mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who is falling in love with Charlie (Charlie Yeung) who is lovelorn over ‘Johnny’, who has left Charlie for someone else.

Photo: Leon Lai in ‘Fallen Angels’ Reference: Photo

Tying all the plot threads is the mysterious and quirky Blondie / Baby (Karen Mok) who drifts in and out of the unconventional stories.

Video: Clips From ChungKing Express 

In the plot line which features Sing Tao and Sampdoria, deep amongst the crowded yet lonely streets, two of the main protagonists, Ho Chi-mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Charlie (Charlie Yeung) continually cross paths with the former falling in love with the latter.

Sampdoria Make a Cinematic Cameo in the Italy Cup 1995

Photo: Ho Chi-Mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Charlie (Charlie Yeung) Photo: screenmusing.org

Both Charlie and Ho Chi are seemingly cut adrift in the city that never sleeps yet find respite in each other’s friendship, football and Dutch legend, Ruud Gullit…..

Serie A: Sampdoria’s Ruud Gullit and Sven-Goran Eriksson (Manager) – 1993/94. (Photo: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty)

Sadly, after the game that features in the film and in the backdrop of an empty Hong Kong stadium, Ho Chi realizes that his feelings for Charlie are not reciprocated.

“I took Charlie to the match. She’s a fan of Ruud Gullit.

She was ecstatic that night.

She insisted in staying on after the game.”

Dialogue from Fallen Angels 1995

(Originally in Cantonese)

Sampdoria Versus Eastern in 1994

In 1995, Ruud Gullit came to Hong Kong with a star-studded Sampdoria squad. The Serie A side had come to defend the ‘Satchi Italy Cup’ against local outfit Sing Tao.

Sampdoria had graced HK stadium in 1994 in the first edition of the ‘Italy Cup’ when they defeated Eastern 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 40,000 fans. In the first visit, Sampdoria were led by David Platt but were without Rudd Gullit who, at that time, was at AC Milan.

Back in the nineties, Eastern had jockeyed with South China for supremacy in the old first division. Dominance in Hong Kong was one thing though playing one of Europe’s finest sides was another and soon the home team were overwhelmed.

In the 1994 edition, Sampdoria’s goals were scored by David Platt (x2), Mauro Bertarelli and the ‘Bald Eagle’, Attilio Lomardo. Eastern’s Dale Tempest scored the home team’s consolidation goal.

Sampdoria’s first visit to Hong Kong saw a rare capacity crowd of 40,000, then a record for a football match in Hong Kong, as the current Hong Kong stadium was then brand new. The increased capacity also helped to generate 4.3 million in gate receipts as fans flocked to see the match.

Video: Eastern take on Sampdoria in 1994

After the Eastern match, David Platt told the SCMP about how he and his team dealt with the heat and humidity.

“We’ve (Sampdoria) been in this part of the world for a week now and we’ve got used to the heat and humidity, so the conditions weren’t as difficult as they were on Sunday. As long as you are sensible and play in a nice, compact formation, you can let the ball do the running.

At the start of the second half we picked it up a gear and scored three times; their defence was a bit square and we were able to get behind it.”

Sampdoria were an excellent advertisement for Serie A in their first visit to Hong Kong and soon would return again in 1995 to play Sing Tao.

 Indonesia’s Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto Joins Sampdoria’s Asian Tour

Photo: Indonesian youth sensation,
Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, playing for Sampdoria Photo: https://www.newsdelivers.com

Sampdoria also visited Indonesia during their 1994 Asian tour and included Indonesian sensation, Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, in their squad. He said at the time.

“It’s great to be able to train with Mancini, David Platt, Attilio Lombardo. I can just go to practice, I’m grateful. This is a rare opportunity. I don’t want to waste it.”

The striker played at the Senayan Main Stadium on May 8, 1994 in front of 100,000 fans and scored for Sampdoria.


Sing Tao FC – Always There and There About

Sing Tao Club Badge – Photo: Wikipedia

Sing Tao were a force in Hong Kong 90’s football and were Senior Shield Champions in the 1991-1992 season and the Viceroy Cup winners during the 1994–95 and 1996–97 seasons.

A team with a long history until their sad demise, Sing Tao, made headlines in 1947 with their ‘Harlem Globe Trotter’ like tour of England and South-East Asia. The young team were only founded in 1939 by Mr A.W. Hoe, then Hong Kong’s leading newspaper magnate.

Sing Tao Tour the World 

Sing Tao players in England during their 1947 tour – Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/

In August 1947, Sing Tao players arrived in London. Sing Tao were the first Hong Kong club to visit Britain. Sing Tao’s first ports of call in their world tour had included places like Philippines and Singapore.

Sing Tao in Action during their 1947 tour to England. Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/

On their world tour prior to visiting England, of Sing Tao’s 24 matches played,  the Tigers had won 21.  Sing Tao played against Dulwich Hamlet and the visitors were beaten 5-2 though gained the respect of the British press.

Sing Tao in Action during their 1947 tour to England. Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/

According to the Hamlet Historian, there was much British media interest leading up to the opening game as a film crew also came to the match at Champion Hill to make a newsreel for the wider public.

Sing Tao in Action during their 1947 tour to England. Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/

The Chinese ambassador was also present with the team at Dulwich. Sing Tao also completed fixtures against two representative sides: the Athenian League and the Isthmian League.

Sing Tao in Action during their 1947 tour to England. Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/

Visiting Sing Tao gained more experience by playing nine matches during  their month long tour against England’s top amateur sides.

Photo: Sing Tao Versus the Athenian League – Photo: www.footballprogrammes.net

The teams they faced included Walton & Hersham (champions of the Corinthian League), Walthamstow Avenue, Oxford City, Ilford, Bromley and Barnet.

Photo: Chinese naval cadets from Chatham, complete with handbells and
rattles, cheering on Sing Tao at Champion Hill. Photo: http://thehamlethistorian.blogspot.com/


Sing Tao – A Nineties Mainstay 

Fast forward to the nineties and Sing Tao did not have the same kind of fan base as Eastern did at the end of the nineties. The Tigers were a solid team who had mainstay players like John Moore (Hong Kong international), ex Spurs goalie Peter Guthrie (Hong Kong league XI) and Paul Masefield (Seen presenting Asian football on TV). Sing Tao also had one of the coolest kits in history when they played in their ‘Tiger striped’ designed home top.

Sing Tao also attracted overseas players such as Glyn Hodges (who played for Wales, Wimbledon AFC, Sheffield United, Newcastle amongst others), Ricky Reina and former Aston Villa defender Shaun Teale.

The latter reflected on his transfer to Sing Tao in this blog:

“I needed to get away from Tranmere. John Aldridge wanted to get rid of me. I wasn’t playing any football either and so when a friend of mine put the idea of going to Hong Kong to me, I spoke to the club (Sing Tao) and went out there on a three month loan deal.”

Soccer: Regional Council CUP FINAL. Sing Tao’s Glyn Hodges (left) and teammate Paul Masefield celebrate their victory over South China in the Regional Council pre-season Cup AT YUEN LONG STADIUM. 17 aug 1996 (Photo by DICKSON LEE/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)


The Ballad of Ralph Milne -A Maverick Signs for Sing Tao

Ralph Milne – Dundee United. Photo: Twitter

Tellingly, Sing Tao also pulled off a remarkable feat as they signed the late Ralph Milne; the Dundee United, Charlton and Manchester United player.

Ralph Milne playing for Charlton – Photo – Twitter

At Dundee United, Milne remains a legend for his immense contribution in their 1982-1983 season team when they broke the ‘Old Firm’ domination and won the Scottish league championship for their first and only time.

Milne’s chipped goal against fierce rivals Dundee set the Terrors on the path for their league title.

Throw in two League Cup and two Scottish Cup finals as well as being Dundee United’s record holder for their goals in Europe; Milne also had stints with Charlton and Manchester United.

In hindsight, Sing Tao secured an incredible signing in seemingly bizarre circumstances.


A Football In the Face and a Deal is Done 

The talented yet flawed maverick is alleged to have signed for Sing Tao by meeting a club agent at Saint James park in London and firing a football into his face!

Milne is quoted about the incident in this retrospective on his life.

“The guy (agent) says, ‘You kick long ball’ so I hit one like a rocket and he took it clean in the face and decked it. When he went down I was absolutely pishing myself and Gerry’s saying ‘dinnae laugh, dinnae laugh’. Then the bloke says, ‘OK, me and you, one on one’ so I nutmegged him and Gerry says ‘Fuck’s sake Ralph, dinnae take the piss’. We ended up in some underground place where I signed the contract.”

The Hong Kong agent was impressed with Milne’s accuracy despite the ball to the face; Milne was signed for the ‘Tigers’ for the 1991-1992 season.

Video: Sing Tao VS South China with Ralph Milne (Number 10) and South China’s Billy Whitehurst (on bench), probably one of the toughest players in the history of English football. 

Milne played well in his brief stint and helped Sing Tao finish fourth in the league.

Video: Sing Tao VS South China with Ralph Milne (Number 10)

In an interview with the SCMP, Milne reflected on Manchester United’s first premier league title in 1993, his time under Alex Ferguson and how he ended up signing for Sing Tao.

Extracts below:

”It was an honour and a privilege to be there and I have to thank Alex Ferguson and the chairman for that.

There is nobody more pleased than me in as much as I was part of the club when Fergie was trying to do exactly what he has just done.

I was there when they won the FA Cup in 1990 and it was a carnival atmosphere then. Now they’ve finally won the league it will be hard to relate to, although I’m sure the club will be booming for a long time.’’

Ralph Milne playing for Manchester United – Photo: Sporting Heroes Website

Fergie took me there because I was a bargain and he was getting rid of the big-money earners. My transfer fee wouldn’t have paid the VAT on some of the others.

Old Trafford can be quite a stage and I feel I did okay without really doing myself justice.

The pressure of playing was not that great; the biggest obstacle was that Fergie had brought in a load of new players and it was a relatively new team with no real blend. The season I played fizzled out a bit and we struggled to finish in the top half; it was a relief to get the season finished. When Fergie signed more new players, that was when I knew I was only a stop-gap player.

I was contemplating chucking it in and then last summer I got an offer to come to Hong Kong. As for me just being part of Fergie’s regime was a great experience.”

Ralph Milne Playing for Sing Tao – Photo: Pinterest / Youtube

Milne turned down the chance to sign a new contract and Hong Kong was deprived of his distinctive skills.

Retrospectively, if Milne had stayed on, maybe the trajectory of the rest of his life would have been different.

The late Jim McLean, Milne’s manager at Dundee United during their glory days, poignantly mentioned in his book, how Milne should have been a superstar on the global stage.

Photo: Twitter

“If I had an outstanding failure then it was Ralph Milne. He should have been playing in World Cups. He should have won a bundle of Scotland international honours. It was a tragedy that that boy was not playing for his country all the time. He had tremendous talent – and I failed with him. He did not have the right attitude to the game and I could not instil that into him.”

A once in a lifetime talent, Milne’s rollercoaster playing career effectively ended in Hong Kong on the bumpy fields of Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po…..

Sampdoria 1995 – The Sequel 

Fast forward a few years and gearing up to the Sampdoria game Sing Tao club chairman, Ng Chung, told the SCMP back in 1995 that:

“Sampdoria are one of the best teams in the world so we are scouting for guest players to strengthen our team.’ Sampdoria are still in contention for the European Cup Winners’ Cup, reaching the semi-final stage.”

Sampdoria would go on to lose the Cup Winners Cup Semi-final 2nd leg to Arsenal in a dramatic tie on April 20th, 1995.

Sampdoria’s then Club vice-president Dr Enrico Ercolani told the SCMP about the impending excitement that Gullit would bring.

“Ruud Gullit’s form is shaky at the moment but he is a fantastic player and he should provide great entertainment for the Hong Kong fans.

We will be bringing our best team but David Platt is uncertain because he may have to play in England’s warm-up matches for the European Championship. Whether he can come depends on England’s schedule.”

David Platt ended up not coming though manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, Gullit and the others would be.

“It’s not right! What was the point of playing?

They had the better team. Our boys were outclassed

There’s no miracles in this world! Fat chance!”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


‘Fallen Angels’ and Falling Rain

Love lorn Charlie can’t find Johnny at Hong Kong stadium during and after the Sampdoria game (How did she get on the pitch with no media pass?) Photo: https://screenmusings.org

On June 10th, 1995, (not June 22nd as mentioned in the film )  Sampdoria’s class showed as they defeated Sing Tao 6-3, at a sparsely filled Hong Kong Stadium. Sampdoria had just been defeated 3-1  by the Chinese national squad a few days early. Both sides were also decked in now iconic kits with Sing Tao wearing their famous ‘Tiger’ stripes.

Video: Sampdoria play China in their 1994 Asian Tour. 

There were only 16,876 spectators in attendance due to the relentless rain and poor weather.

Ruud Gullit was his goodbye tour before his groundbreaking move to an evolving English Premier League.

The Serie A giants went on a goal-scoring spree with two goals in the first half and another four after the interval.

Video: Sing Tao take on Sampdoria in 1995 

Sampdoria struck first through Riccardo Maspero but Sing Tao winger Chan Tsz-kong, equalized in the 19th minute. Three minutes later, Robert Mancini volleyed home from close range for a 2-1 lead. Chan scored again in the 38th minute and the two teams went into half time level at 2-2.

“Do you know why I came?

I was actually hoping for a miracle.

Johnny’s a great fan of Gullit.

I thought he would come. He wouldn’t have had time.

He’s getting married tomorrow.”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


Video: Sing Tao take on Sampdoria in 1995 

Attilio Lombardo tormented the Sing Tao defence as he scored the third and then set up the fourth for Claudio Bellucci. The game was wrapped up when Bellucci scored his second in the 85th minute and Lombardo added his second three minutes later.

Sing Tao’s Tim Bredbury grabbed the home side’s third but it was too little too late and Sampdoria triumphed in a nine goal thriller.

Sampdoria had won and ‘Charlie’ was heart broken.


“Guess why I was yelling and waving……and acting crazy earlier?

I hoped he’d see me on TV. He promised me he’d come!

So why didn’t he?”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


The match turned out to be the last time that Sampdoria came to Hong Kong. The team began to unravel and manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, eventually left to join Lazio.

The Genoese giants’ were sadly relegated in 1999 with a slow return from the eventual wilderness in 2003.


“I realise that she still misses Johnny, but it hurts me.

But I’m an optimistic person.

It’s said……nothing remains the same forever.

But will it apply to Johnny and Charlie? Time will tell. I suppose.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too optimistic.”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


Sing Tao took on Italian opposition again in 1997 when they played Inter Milan with cameos from former England internationals, John Barnes and Mark Wright, for the Tigers. The Milan giants showed their class by thumping Sing Tao 8-0.

Video: A Sign of Things To Come – Sing Tao get hammered by Inter Milan as they slowly regressed and soon, no longer existed. 


Curtain Falls on Both Sampdoria and Sing Tao 

Sadly, despite being a competitive squad, Sing Tao themselves were dissolved after the 1998–99 season and another club were consigned to the history books.

Heart broken Chi Mo at HK stadium (How did he get on the field with no media pass?): Photo: https://screenmusings.org


“A few days later, I invited her to another match.

She didn’t turn up.

I really thought she’d soon get over Johnny.

How wrong could I have been?

It was me she got over.”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


Ironically, both Sing Tao and Sampdoria met their ‘demise’ in 1999 though only one team’s fate was terminal.

In terms of ‘Fallen Angels’, maybe Charlie never got over her unrequited love for Johnny and maybe…..the slow and creeping demise of Hong Kong football. On a positive note, Sing Tao have been captured for all posterity for future generations on film.

Despite these misgivings, Charlie had the chance, amid the pouring rain and mud, to see the likes of Walter Zenga, Ruud Guilt, Mancini and Lombardo and a majestic Sampdoria in all their pomp and panache at Hong Kong Stadium……who knows if those heady days will return……..

Photo: End of ‘Fallen Angels’ Photo: Twitter


“I stayed on after the match. As the stadium lights dimmed.

I realized she wouldn’t show. I’m heartbroken.

Not a hope.

They say ‘love hurts…..”

– Dialogue from Fallen Angels (1995)


Squads: Sing Tao Versus Sampdoria – June, 1995

Sing Tao (4-4-2):

Victor Derbounov (Maurice Munden 45); Choy Wai-man (Tim Bredbury 30), Paul Masefield, How Yiu-pun (Tam Ah-fook 55), Lai Law-kau (Chen Haixian 73); Chu Chi-kwong, Chu Yue-tai, Chan Tsz-kong, Lau Chi-yuen; John Moore, Nick Dent (Wai Kwan-lung 73)

Sampdoria (4-4-2):

Walter Zenga (Giulio Nuciari 45); Moreno Mannini, Riccardo Ferri, Srecko Jugovic, Giovanni Invernizzi; Fausto Salsano, Riccardo Maspero (Alessandro Sala 28), Claudio Bellucci, Alessandro Doga; Roberto Mancini (Anang Ma’Ruf 76); Ruud Gullit (Attilio Lombardo 45).

Manager – Sven-Göran Eriksson

Man of the Match: Attilio Lombardo (Sampdoria)

Main Photo: Takeshi Kaneshiro + Michelle Reis in ‘Fallen Angels’ (1995) – Photo: Screenmusings.org

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