International football – Hong Kong v Guangdong

As supporters of Torquay United, we aren’t much used to magnificent stadia. The Hong Kong Stadium must hold 40,000 people and, this being Hong Kong, everything works. It’s easy to buy tickets (we went for top of the range £5 tickets, ignoring the savings of the £1.66 tickets in the upper tier); spotlessly clean; and provides wonderful views from every vantage point in the ground. We decided to take spurn our usual places behind the goal, taking half way line seats right by the pitch next to the few noisy supporters emulating the crowds they see in La Liga, Serie A and Premier League.

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I estimate that some 1,998 other people joined us in the stadium for the first leg of the annual Hong Kong v Guangdong. I had no concern about my 12 year old being exposed to bad language, because the crowd was Cantonese (and because my own language was tempered by the fact that I had little allegiance to either side).

This was the 34th playing of this competition, with Guangdong holding a substantial lead. It was immediately obvious that they were likely to add to this lead. The Hong Kong crowd showed a lack of confidence that I have seen frequently from watching Torquay play better sides in the FA cup. They bayed for blood at each foul and got very excited by every attacking move from Hong Kong. They played route one football.

By contrast, Guangdong passed the ball on the churned up pitch. They had fielded 10 Ray Wilkins-type players who kept the ball largely in their own half for minutes at a time. Some 30 minutes into the game, Guangdong – for the first time – got the ball into the final third and scored. The crowd accepted the inevitability of where this game was going.

Having won the Asian Cup in the late 1990s, Hong Kong’s football has fallen into decline. They now languish in 169th place in the Coca Cola Fifa world rankings one place above Cambodia. Why Coca Cola bother to sponsor this meaningless statistic, one never knows. One wonders what England have done to merit fifth place, one above Brazil. However 169th looked about right for Hong Kong. They do have a couple of decent players though, both strikers:-

Cheng Siu Wai – who looks a bit like Thierry Henry – scored the first goal, a header from the penalty spot that spun past the keeper’s right hand. However, the 26 year old, Ghanian born debutant Godfred Karikari was outstanding all evening. Skilful, creative and much quicker than anyone else on the pitch, he caused problems for the competent Guangdong defenders all evening. If Siu Wai had been able to match Godfred’s pace, there would have been more goals. Godfred scored the second in the middle of the second half, a header from further out spinning into the same corner of the net. If Torquay officials read this blog, they should check his work permit status. He would do well in the lower English leagues.

It wasn’t to be Hong Kong’s night though. Their defence, which had modelled themselveso on the Keystone Cops all evening, left a player unmarked from a bog-standard high cross. This cross was headed to a striker who only had to score from 2 feet out. Guangdong will surely win the second leg in 3 days time.

The football is of a variable standard. I believe Torquay would probably beat this Hong Kong side. The defence is just too weak to withstand an organised professional side. Guangdong are probably of Championship standard (2nd tier of English football). Mssrs Andlka and (maybe) Drogba will thrive at this level of football.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville on December 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Problem is that Torquay has a couple of effective strikers and, in these straightened times, would be hard put to cover his air fare, even if via Finland.

    Good report have you considered stringing for the Guardian while you are out there?

    Reply

    • I did consider going to the second leg in Guangdong. However, we have a lunch appointment at the Foreign Correspondents Club and afternoon birthday party for Nancy

      Reply

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