Win or lose today's FA Cup final, WoFoo Tai Po will toast a highly successful season. They deserve the champagne for they are the talk of the town - local soccer's new order. The experiment of promoting a district team to the upper echelons a couple of years ago by the Hong Kong Football Association has borne sweet fruit. WoFoo Tai Po have shown in no uncertain terms that the game can be taken to the satellite towns and nourished by the back-street boys of the area. 'This is a result of hard work and dedication from the players,' says Henry Chan Chi-chiu, manager of the club. 'All the credit must go to them, they have shown great character.' This success story began two years ago when the HKFA decided to promote Tai Po to the First Division. The plan hatched by the former hierarchy, which included then secretary Martin Lam Chun-ying, was to take the game to the townships in the hope that the people of the area would support the team. Like most new ventures, this experiment had teething problems. It was difficult at the outset, with Tai Po losing all their matches by large margins. It dawned on team management that if they were to be competitive, they would have to get a nucleus of overseas players, around whom the home-grown players could gel. The obvious obstacle was the funds needed to buy the foreign players. Tai Po were grateful when WoFoo Social Enterprises stepped in with HK$500,000 in the first year. This was increased by a further HK$300,000 this season, but it was still small change compared with what was needed. It was left to a handful of benefactors to salvage the dreams of the fledgling First Division club. With Chan in the forefront, they all contributed this season to come up with a budget of HK$4 million. It was enough to get four foreign professionals - three from Brazil and one from Ghana. They even had enough to lure a player from the mainland. 'HK$4 million is nothing when you compare it with the budgets of the bigger clubs like South China, Kitchee or Sun Hei. But we managed to pull off a miracle,' says Chan. The miracle? To finish third in the First Division this season and to reach the FA Cup final where they come up against Citizen today. To make things even sweeter, the road to Hong Kong Stadium included a win over big-spenders South China - Hong Kong's most famous club who this season clinched the First Division title for the 38th time. Whatever happens today, WoFoo Tai Po deserve all the laurels, simply for playing with pure passion and unadulterated zeal. Their success will be celebrated by the mandarins at the HKFA whose policy has been vindicated. Tim Bredbury, who had a short stint as coach at WoFoo Taipo at the start of the season, is happy for his former charges. 'Most teams in Hong Kong have no fan base as well as no permanent base as far as stadium facilities are concerned. Tai Po are an exception. They have a couple of thousand fans and, although they don't have a stadium, they have shown what direction football in Hong Kong should go,' Bredbury said. The club has a facility - the Tai Po Sports Ground, which is run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. But while the stands can accommodate up to 3,000 fans, the pitch is not up to par. After hosting just one game this season, the HKFA decided the poor conditions underfoot were not conducive to top-grade soccer and barred WoFoo Tai Po from playing home fixtures. It wasn't a shock decision when you consider the Tai Po Sports Ground is open for public use seven days a week. All that usage has turned the pitch into a farm field. This has presented Chan and other officials at the club with a headache. They know the only way they can build on this season's success is to start hosting games in Tai Po. But to do this, they will have to limit public access to the ground. It is an unenviable position which Chan, a Tai Po district councillor, has to confront. But if he and his fellow members decide in favour of barring the public, they have the power to do so, for last year, in his policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen allocated more power to the district councils. 'We badly need to upgrade the pitch,' says Chan. 'But then the public will have to make some sacrifices. 'The question is whether they will be willing to do so. We need to strike the right balance between promoting football and allowing public use of the pitch.' Perhaps the LCSD should step in and give a helping hand by providing alternative facilities for the public. The HKFA should also pitch in and use all their influence to help out Tai Po. In the long run, the game is bound to benefit. 'This is a test case to move football out to the districts and it has proved successful,' says Bredbury. 'This is the way forward. We need more teams based in various districts, having their own facilities, their own fans, if football is to once again be big and popular in Hong Kong.' Chan says if the Tai Po Sports Ground was refurbished and made available solely for the club, he would guarantee a full house every time they played a home game. 'Our capacity is 3,000 and I'm sure we will have a full house when we host the other teams. It will be like playing in England,' he says. It would also allow the club to earn some money. If tickets are HK$50, a full house would give the club HK$150,000 for each home game. So win or lose today, WoFoo Tai Po has already proven they are a success story. They have shown what the future could be like for Hong Kong football.