HK game takes on a tartan hue as team make debut
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen might be secretly rooting for the new Hong Kong Scottish rugby team who make their debut in the Premiership as the new season starts today.
Following in the footsteps of the exiled Scots in London, who more than a century ago formed the London Scottish, the class of Hong Kong has set up a top-flight club. And it seems to have the blessings from the government which has already given its consent to greater collaboration between Hong Kong and Scotland.
During a visit to Scotland last month, Tsang met Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. The outcome was a handshake and promises for increased links and contact in trade and investment, education, culture, and lastly - and perhaps most importantly - sport.
Both men agreed that Scotland and Hong Kong had much to learn from each other, and as far as sport was concerned, 'both sides agreed that their representative sporting organisations should be encouraged to develop stronger sporting links with their counterparts and consider how this co-operation can also be used to the benefit of the wider community', said a government statement.
The idea of the Hong Kong Scottish was already present before any such inter-government deals, but the Tsang-Salmond meeting has now given the club an official seal of approval - with Tsang being presented a Hong Kong Scottish shirt by former Scotland coach Frank Hadden.
The club's genesis is in the Nomads, who have been steadily climbing up the ranks over the past few seasons, and saw the benefits of forging closer links with the Scottish and Celtic expatriate community.
'As the newcomers in the Hong Kong Premiership in 2011, Hong Kong Scottish is aiming to surprise a few people,' said club general manager Dave Whiteford.
'There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the team is competitive on the pitch, and in total we have 14 new signings to bolster the Nomads squad, who were beaten finalists in the Second Division Grand Final last season.'
These players include five ex-Scotland under-20 internationals, including Whiteford himself. The others are Murray Allan, James Murray, Tom Bury, who played for Scotland at the Hong Kong Sevens this year, and Niall Shannon.
The club will have a strong local presence, with Hong Kong international hooker Alvin Chik being signed on from Grand Champions Tradition Valley. Hong Kong Scottish will be coached by another Scot, Craig Wilson.
Hong Kong Scottish, whose ambassador is the legendary Gavin Hastings, faces a tough baptism coming up against Altus Kowloon at King's Park tonight. 'Just like a whisky, the secret is in the blend,' said Whiteford.
'The Scots boys have settled in well, and are fitting in nicely alongside the rest ... we could give a few teams a shock with players of the calibre of Tom Bury lying in wait.'