What Hong Kong can learn from Icelanders at the Fifa World Cup in Russia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 9:01pm

The Fifa World Cup 2018 has kicked off a frenzy of soccer mania but, this time, the spotlight is no longer on a few exceedingly talented teams which used to dominate the competition. One example is Iceland, which pulled off a draw against Argentina led by Lionel Messi, a five-time Golden Ball winner with billions of fans worldwide.

Iceland has a population of just over 330,000. I would joke that with such a small population, it would be hard for Iceland to select 11 players who can kick the ball, leave alone play well. On the other hand, Hong Kong has well over 20 times as many people, and thus should have no trouble finding a group of players to make it through the World Cup qualifying rounds. But it has not turned out like that at all.

Our current global ranking is 142. Two years after Hong Kong became the football champions of the East Asian Games in 2009, our government launched the Project Phoenix scheme to improve the standard and popularity of the game. However, it has been criticised for failing to deliver.

Last year, the Hong Kong Football Association got together with its counterpart in Iceland to launch a “Football Development Partnership”.

Hong Kong’s hardcore Iceland fans live World Cup dream

But there is a stark difference between the morale of fans from Iceland and Hong Kong: the former has drawn 30,000 fans – about one-tenth of its total population – into the spectator stands in Russia, while in Hong Kong, each local game can hardly draw a thousand spectators on average.

Development of soccer in Hong Kong will not only require consistent government support and in-depth analysis, but also for parents of our potential soccer stars to start encouraging their children to excel, as sport not only creates athletes but also builds character.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan