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A Hong Kong diary

July 27 2017

Hong Kong Eagles fans

Hong Kong Eagles fans

Crystal Palace fan Chris Tringham recounts the Eagles' week in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy.

Sunday 16th July

We have heard that an advance party of Palace players are arriving at the airport this afternoon. One of our number goes to meet them.

Bad news – no (current) players. Good news – it's Palace legend Mark Bright, who then goes to the Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground for a Palace TV interview with Chris Grierson to talk about the facilities (and the rain). At least we know where they’ll be training.

Monday 17th July

Palace fans are featured in Apple Daily (local equivalent of The Sun). We mainly rely on Google Translate, which tells us that “the 40-year-old Davis is a true water fan”, literally none of which is true. Never rely on Google Translate (or Apple Daily). To be fair, the first character in Palace’s Chinese name is 水, which does mean water. Still or Sparkling?

Later we scrutinize the player’s social media to confirm their flight number (certainly nothing creepy about that, right?). It’s BA031, due at 1.40 pm. Temporary panic when the official airport information shows the flight is due to land 45 minutes early, but this is eventually corrected and the flight duly lands at 1.30 pm.

We wait patiently - but no sign of the players, and then at 2pm a local photographer informs us that they have already left through a special exit that we didn’t know about. Later, I am called 蠢蠢哋1 by my wife, because apparently everyone knows this is where VIPS go. And, to be fair, the Liverpool fans did know…

Some of our group go off to stalk the players at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Around 5pm they finally manage to get some photos. The players leave for some light training in Tamar Park.

1. 蠢蠢哋 means "a little bit stupid". Not a very kind thing to say, I thought.

Tuesday 18th July

The players train in Happy Valley. Not at the Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground.

Tonight we have a Palace event at the Dog House bar in Wan Chai. Fan Zhiyi was already there when I arrived, though I confess I didn’t recognise him (having been in Hong Kong when he played for Palace, in the days when there was no TV coverage here).

Next up was Mark Bright, and I managed to spend a few minutes talking with him.

I was also able to talk to another Palace legend: known to some as “Viko’s Dad”, others as Palace Vice-President David Jensen, and to the world as a former Radio 1 and Capital DJ. Another really nice guy.

Then we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Steve Parish, and he informs us that we have a shirt sleeve sponsor – who are also the shirt sponsor for the tournament because ManBetX is not allowed in Hong Kong (the only legal betting is through the Hong Kong Jockey Club).

SP thanks Rob for organising the event and gives him a signed shirt. Rob’s “impromptu” speech lasts for several minutes, giving us plenty of time to relish the contrast between his tartan beach wear (and Crocs) and Parish’s expensive suit and footwear.

If you’d asked Palace fans to choose the three players to attend the event, they might have asked for Wilfried Zaha, Julian Speroni and Jason Puncheon - on the basis that they have all had long associations with the club.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad, and we got Wilf and Jules, plus James Tomkins, all of whom happily signed stuff, posed for photographs and chatted to fans.

It was great to see Julian Speroni greeting David Jensen warmly, and also Fan Zhiyi (they played together at Dundee).

Of course, it wasn’t just about the Palace legends, it was also the fans both from Hong Kong and all over the world. For example, I talked – separately – to two Palace fans from Perth (Western Australia).

One is an Aussie who chose Palace after watching the 1990 semi-final and final on TV, and was very enthusiastic about everything. The other is originally from South London, having moved to Australia in 1991. Now they are setting up a group for Palace fans in Perth.

Wednesday 19th July

Steve Parish is on CNBC, and gets asked a curve-ball question about the Chinese Super League. He’s from England, we are in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy, so what was that all about?

Oh, there’s a football match as well. Fortunately, the torrential rain of the last few days stops shortly after midnight and so we won’t have a repeat of the 2013 fiasco with the pitch (the last time the event was held here).

The atmosphere in the ground is strange, to say the least. At least 90% are Liverpool fans, but they applaud Wilf when he does something skillful (this happens quite a lot), and boo fouls by both teams. They also don’t appreciate Wilf taking exception to Grujic’s assault.

There are a few Palace fans, but unfortunately we are scattered all around the stadium. And some seem to have interesting choices of player names on their shirts...

Thursday 20th July

There was a training session at the Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground. Really. You can watch it online on Palace TV and they even show you the name of the facility.

We get information that Hennessey, Puncheon and FdB are heading off for an autograph event on Nathan Road in the early evening. This turns out to be Apsley Tailors. It’s all true except that the players attending are Ward, Tomkins and Joniesta - who is later shown on Palace TV trying awfully hard to be enthusiastic about his hosts: “I quite enjoy the suit, so yeah. It’s nice and close-fitted. Yeah, it’s important to look smart.” We spot a few familiar faces in the video.

Friday 21st July

More dodgy intel. The players are going on a cruise around the harbour, and so a small group waits at pier 9 in Central, having seemingly had confirmation from a club source. The boat actually leaves from Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.

One of the visiting fans manages to get round there, and can be seen in the background on Palace TV watching Schlupp nervously waiting to disembark. Obviously he hasn’t been on as many boats as Punch.

Saturday 22nd July

Pre-match training and at least one fan heads off to the Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground, reasonably enough. But the players go to the Kowloon Cricket Club, and a few supporters have found out and get there in time.

There’s another game of football tonight. This time we get our act together and congregate in Block 139. Yes, that’s the one that was officially allocated to Palace, but occupied by Liverpool fans on Wednesday.

We sing, we win, and both goals are scored in front of us. Fan favourites Jules and Joniesta play in the second half, and both “give us a wave.”

Sunday 22nd July

Typhoon Roke hits Hong Kong. Twelve hours earlier this would have caused chaos. The players fly back to London.

Conclusions

It was a fantastic experience to have Palace in town, and we really appreciated the support for the event at the Dog House. It would have been great if we could have been given accurate information about where the players were going to be during the week, but maybe it was all part of the fun.

On the other hand, everyone from the club who was asked to sign stuff or pose for photos did so willingly and cheerfully.

We have made contact with several local Palace fans during the week, and hope to hear from more. Check out the Hong Kong Crystal Palace Facebook page.

See photos from the trip in the Hong Kong gallery.

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