Picture of good sportsmanship on show at King's Park
It looked more like a convention of pacifists networking than a testosterone-filled cup final. There were handshakes all round as Singh Sabha Sports Club (SSSC) and Pakistan Association met in the Holland Cup final. The teams shook hands with each other before the game, and afterwards too.
Everyone was on their best behaviour at King's Park yesterday, so much so that not a yellow card was pulled out of the umpires' pockets. With the imminent threat of banishment from the Hong Kong premier division next season, under-siege SSSC refreshingly showed they could play good clean hockey.
But that was not good enough to see them defend their title for a second successive year as Pakistan Association scored a 3-2 victory to win their first Holland Cup title since 1998.
'It was a good game, a clean game,' victorious captain Shafiq Iqbal said. 'Both teams showed plenty of sportsmanship. It has been a long time since we won the cup and we are really happy.'
Iqbal shot down the suggestion that the tournament had been devalued by the absence of league champions Hong Kong Football Club, Shaheen and Valley, and the other stay-away team Kowloon Cricket Club - who had already been knocked out of the competition.
These four teams pulled out as they felt SSSC should have been booted out of the competition after an incident during a league game between Football Club and SSSC last month. Club's Douglas Corbel was sent to hospital bloodied after he got a blow on the back of his head with a hockey stick wielded by Satpal Singh - a Hong Kong international.
But yesterday SSSC didn't put a foot wrong. Every time one of his player seemed to be on the verge of boiling over, SSSC captain Jasbir Singh rushed in trying to cool things. His peacenik attitude worked wonders as SSSC shed their bad-boy image yesterday.
'We played clean. We were here today to play good hockey,' said Jasbir Singh afterwards. Another Singh, Johnny, added: 'We want every club to know that we don't play rough. We play tough, not rough.'
Hong Kong Hockey Association president Sarinder Dillon was left a relieved man that the showpiece event which brought the curtain down on the 2006-07 season was not marred by bad behaviour or on-field violence.
'SSSC knew they would be watched carefully, and I guess this had a positive effect. The match was played in the right spirit,' Dillon said.
Both teams took time to settle down. And having to tread on egg-shells apparently didn't help either, resulting in a laklustre first half. The game only came to life in the dying minutes when Pakistan Association's Rahat-ur-Rehman Khan knocked in the opening goal after teammate Arshad Khan had controlled a long pass and deflected the ball into his path. SSSC hit back almost immediately through Buta Singh whose reverse hit was unstoppable and gave his side parity at the break.
Goals from Mahmood Wajid and Sajjad Hussain -the first off a penalty corner - allowed Pakistan Association to take a comfortable lead before Baljinder Singh pulled one back in the closing stages.