Hong Kong soccer legend Wu Kwok-hung dies of cancer
Hong Kong soccer legend Wu Kwok-hung died early on Monday morning after a struggle against throat cancer. He was 66.
Known as “Big Head Boy” or “Ah Cap” for his leadership role at both club and international level, Wu retired in 1986 after his club, Seiko, were disbanded.
An attacking midfielder, Wu was widely considered one of the best players Hong Kong has produced. His ability to read the game in midfield and score goals inside the box earned him the reputation of being Hong Kong’s top player of the 1970s and 1980s.
“He was definitely the greatest player of his generation,” said Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak.
“When I came back from the United States in 1973, I started watching him play and he was just a naturally skilful player – a talent born to play soccer and not as a result of any hard training.
"His clinical skills in front of the goal, his commanding style in midfield and his playing attitude of rarely arguing with the referee and fellow players will always be remembered by the fans. His death is a loss of Hong Kong soccer. We all miss him.”
Leung said the FA would study the possibility of hosting a memorial match for Wu.
Former Hong Kong coach Kwok Ka-ming, who played alongside Wu and later became his coach in the national team, paid tribute.
“He is one of the legends of Hong Kong soccer,” said Kwok. “He has contributed so much to the sport. We are very sad to hear of his passing.”
Wu first played in the First Division for Tung Sing in 1968 for three seasons before joining South China, with whom he won three domestic titles in his first season.
He attracted the attention of then newly promoted side Seiko and was lured to join the big spenders, with whom he stayed until 1986. It was at Seiko that Wu consolidated his reputation.
Wu helped Seiko win nine league championships, including a record seven in a row from 1979 to 1985 and every other domestic title.
He was a member of the Hong Kong team that won the World Cup Asian zone qualifying round first stage in Singapore featuring Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the hosts in 1977.
During his later days, he was recalled to the Hong Kong team for World Cup qualifiers in 1985 and he helped Hong Kong beat China 2-1 in the last group match at Workers’ Stadium in Beijing – a result that ended the mainlanders’ hopes of reaching the Mexico World Cup finals the following year and led to a soccer riot in the capital.
Former Hong Kong team member Tim Bredbury, who played with Wu in Seiko for two years towards the end of the legend’s career, said: “He was not the commanding presence of a few years earlier but still possessed the silky skills that could fool an opponent in any one-on-one situation.
“He was a player who developed and honed his skills on the streets and the hard grounds to become the best Hong Kong player I have ever seen. It’s very sad to hear Wu is no longer with us.
“As with all great players, he knew what was going on all around him. He could play any type of ball to beat a defence and more importantly, could score goals of great quality.
"Free kicks were a speciality, but to watch him inside the box with his close control beating defenders and then calmly slotting the ball home for another win was a joy to behold.”
A testimonial match for Wu was held by Seiko in 1986, attracting a full house at the then 28,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
He had been suffering from oesophageal cancer since last year and died in Eastern Hospital.