Rugby in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Rugby Football Union - http://www.hkrugby.com/en

Hong Kong Football Club - http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/hongkongfootballclub/

World in Union Scroll - Profile

Rambo Leung - First International Hong Kong player of Chinese origin (Hong Kong)

Country Blog

Touching down in Hong Kong was one of the most bewildering experiences of my life, let alone the journey. When you can no longer build out, you build up, and “Honkers” (to the expat community) has done just that. The high risers make mainland China look like child’s play, and down at street level many alleys experience almost perpetual shade from the towering apartments on all sides.
On this occasion the bikes remained boxed for the on bound transfer to Vietnam, and so we were free to browse the small island on foot. We soon discovered that Hong Kong not only has everything, but everything many times over. In Iran, with no cutlery, I had been forced to spread my tuna using a Marks and Spencer’s loyalty card. Although now just a distant memory, yesterday, it eventuated that I was left rueing that decision.

I think it was Homer Simpson who once said of salad “That’s not food, that’s what food eats”, so when Jodie asked if I wanted something from “Just salad” I politely refused as she strolled in to grab lunch. What happened next reminded me of my reaction when Peter Stringer, the slowest scrum half in the land, rounded Serge Betsen to score in the 2006 Heineken Cup final. In Serge’s defence, there was only around 9 minutes left in the half, and most would have doubted this long enough for Peter to reach the try line from 15 yards out. In any case, Jodie walked out of “Just salad” with a tuna baguette and once again I was left wiping my eyes and thinking “….what the…??”

Being in Hong Kong is pretty good fun, it has to be said, but being in Hong Kong, in a pub, with the 6 Nations on the TV took the experience to another level. Compiled with the fact that we were being hosted by a rugby loving Irishman, at times I wondered whether I would ever be fit to cycle again.
Outside of the evening (and small hours) commitments, we found time to explore the development of rugby domestically in Hong Kong. First stop, the Rugby section at Hong Kong Football Club – the oldest rugby club in Hong Kong. With some now quite spectacular facilities, we were treated to a brief tour and a lesson into the club’s 125 year old history. A few pints of Guiness and a Hong Kong Football club rugby shirt later, and we were heading back to Mid Levels with our host Eoin. I found myself getting quite comfortable with our new Honkers lifestyle.

With the history of Hong Kong firmly in the bag, we turned to the future, and with it, a gigantic Minis Tournament in Kings Park. Exact figures have yet to be confirmed, but the organisers have already confirmed it has surpassed the previous Guiness World Record for player attendance (held by themselves). Around 3,000 boys and girls were kitted up with around 15 matches being played at any given time. The organisation was tight, the kids youthfully energetic, and the weather fantastic. Our hats came off to the fatigued referees but due to the previous night’s antics, the glasses stayed on. At this point we met with Semi, a Samoan/Kiwi, former Hong Kong captain and complete rugby nut. Semi recently started his “Rugby Asia Channel” feeding back stories on Asian rugby to the world. He filmed a piece on our journey to support the cause. This will be uploaded soon on: http://www.facebook.com/pages/RugbyAsia-Channel/335184455993

One man with a whole heap of experience around Hong Kong rugby was our contact at the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, Robbie McRobbie. Originally from the UK, Robbie grew up on Robbington Road in the quiet village of Robford, and had learnt his trade nearby with Robminster Rugby Club (aka “the Robins”). Ok, so maybe I made all that up, but he did come to Hong Kong with the police force and he HAD spent most of his playing days playing for the Force XV and higher with the Hong Kong A XV. Combining his knowledge of rugby, and his social awareness due to his profession, Robbie had been one of the key contributors to a scheme known as “Breakthrough”. If ever we were looking for evidence of the principles of rugby culture we need look no further. Although rugby is only one of the disciplines offered to the recruits, the scheme speaks volumes about the social and personal development potential of such an activity. I would encourage anyone to read about Operation Breakthrough, and in particular some of the success stories to emerge already- http://www.breakthrough.hk/en/success-stories

Parallel to this operation, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union have launched a scheme called “Don’t drop the ball”. This does not specifically target young offenders, and looks to steer children away from the lures of illegal activities, particularly in areas where there is a known Triad gang presence. Between these two structures we are able to draw comparison between many principles that are integral to rugby, and those that are important to being a jolly good person. Enough said.

Speaking of jolly good people, our next rugby stop presented us with just that and yet another scroll signature. If being named Rambo wasn’t already worthy enough reason, being the first ever Chinese born Hong Kong International player certainly was. Rambo took us for some fantastic dim sum at an old favourite of his, and over the Chinese parcels he shared stories from both his playing and now coaching days around Asia. Previously on our trip, embracing culture has always been the key to successfully developing rugby, let alone a society in general. Rambo drew some excellent comparisons to the success of rugby using an impressive insight into social and economic history. Although only four guest eyebrows were present around the small table, I can assure you that on many occasions, at least most of them were raised at his theories. Some of his ideas commenced shortly “post-dinosaur”, and tracked the migration of pacific islanders and the indigenous peoples of Oceania. Rambo’s ideas took giant steps to dispelling the myth that many cultures are genetically inadequate to adopt the sport, but just as the human body has evolved over time, a style of rugby must now also evolve to fit such changes.



I’ve always believed that playing rugby is only 50% in the body, with the remaining 50% shared between the head and heart. A fairly generic theory, and most would agree that I was a well balanced player in this capacity. I never displayed any unessential courage and despite being 6’2’’ and weighing over 90kg, I was as useful on the pitch as a solar powered floodlight. By contrast, often the most innocuous looking guys turned out to be the most intimidating players to face. Next time I’m invited to play in the Schwarzenegger XV v Welsh Miner XV, I will be reaching for my snow white costume and joining the merry little men.



Hong Kong is one example of how East has met West and integrated to the greater good, perhaps with the help of guys like Rambo, rugby will find more homes throughout Asia. I for one will be keeping a close eye on East Asian rugby as we now head for Vietnam, and the start of South East Asia.

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