Savouring special walk to Hong Kong Stadium

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am

The sun was shining, beers were being quaffed all around and two English Premier League teams were about to take to the park - life doesn't get much better than this.

You didn't need to be a Portsmouth or Fulham fan to enjoy yourself. Just the prospect of it approaching the ground was enough.

OK, it wasn't the same buzz as walking to either Fratton Park or Craven Cottage, but starved as we are of this level of soccer in Hong Kong this walk up to Hong Kong Stadium was more enjoyable than usual.

The fans making their way up were mostly all decked in red. Liverpool shirts were everywhere, but this was a game for the maverick fan, one who doesn't run with the pack.

And you couldn't meet a more unconventional supporter than Gason Leong Wah. In a sea of red, his Fulham kit stood out like a beacon.

'I've supported Fulham for over four years now and I love them,' the 22-year-old student said. 'They have great fighting spirit. Every season they are tipped to be relegated but they never are.

'Remember last season we beat Liverpool at home and that kept us up. We are afraid of no one and that's why I like them so much.'

For Tony Clarke, his wife Carol and their 12-year-old son, Sean, it was a family affair. Tony is a passionate Pompey fan, now living in Brisbane, Australia. It was the first time he was going to see Pompey play in three years. All were decked out in blue.

'I used to be a season ticket-holder back in the old days so we thought we'd arrange our holiday to Hong Kong to coincide with the game,' he said.

Carol laughed. 'We didn't have a choice!' she replied. That's the trouble when you marry a football fanatic; you get the club thrown in for free. As for the match itself, a goal from Benjani Mwaruwari, when he stabbed a shot home from close range in first-half injury time, gave Portsmouth a 1-0 win in what was a tepid affair.

Pompey goalkeeper David James kept his side ahead thanks to some good saves and his coach Harry Redknapp had only praise for him.

'I think he should be picked for England. I don't think he will, but in my opinion he deserves to play,' Redknapp said. Redknapp is also good for a quote and when asked by a reporter would he give marks out of 10 for his new striker David Nugent replied: 'I don't give him marks we give him wages.'

Cottagers' coach Lawrie Sanchez preferred to play it safe saying: 'It was a good quality game considering how tough the conditions were.'

His team may have been beaten, but afterwards the one Fulham fan reappeared at the end, and on hearing that he might have been the only Cottagers' supporter in the stadium to watch his team's defeat, he was unconcerned.

'So what, it's only the pre-season,' he said. 'Wait and see, we won't get relegated this year either. They have never let me down.'