Crusaders score a special victory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am

Peter 'Rooney' Lam pumped his fists in the air after scoring the winning goal for the Hong Kong Football Club Crusaders in their opening game against the visiting Fulham Badgers.

But there were no losers yesterday in an eye-opening first special needs tournament for those with Down's syndrome at Sports Road.

'He celebrates like Wayne Rooney so he is nicknamed after the England striker,' said Nigel Merritt, chairman of the HKFC mini, junior and youth soccer programme.

Fulham, the pioneers of special needs football in Britian, were making a groundbreaking trip to Hong Kong with 14 young people with Down's syndrome and their parents.

'No matter what happens [on the field], this is a great trip,' said Mikael Undrom, captain of the Badgers. 'The best part is we have made new friends. But I hope we win.' His hopes were dashed as Lam knocked in the decisive goal to give the Crusaders a 3-2 win. The other two goals were scored by Sean Brown, whose dad Kevin started the special needs team 11 years ago.

'Two years ago we brought this team into our section. The club has been a huge help and everyone has been very supportive,' Merritt said. 'We train every Monday evening and we have as much fun as the players.'

And having the most fun yesterday was Sean Brown, scorer of the first two goals and the person instrumental in picking the name Crusaders for his team, formerly just known as the 'special needs' team.

'He is a keen rugby fan, that's why Crusaders (after a New Zealand team). It is outrageous, he is English,' joked dad Kevin.

There are more than 3,000 people with Down's syndrome in the city, according to Erica Lee Siu-wai, an official with the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, whose team, the Dragons, were the third side in the inaugural seven-a-side tournament.

'We have 700 members with ages ranging from new-born to adults. We encourage them to play sport,' Lee said. 'They play other sports like table tennis, lawn bowls, tenpin bowling, swimming and gold, but soccer is popular.'