What happens when you challenge Hong Kong Football Club’s 150kg ‘Polar Bear’ to a pizza-eating contest?
Leon Wei is a giant among men on and off the rugby pitch, so how much pizza can he eat in one sitting? One SCMP reporter found out
At 1.80 metres and 150 kilograms, 27-year-old Natixis Hong Kong Football Club prop Leon Wei is one of the Hong Kong Men’s Premiership’s most recognisable figures. Known as the ‘Polar Bear’, Wei took the time to chat with South China Morning Post over a full large pizza (half pepperoni and half bacon cheeseburger) at Paisano’s in Wan Chai, in a friendly eating challenge.
Wei talked about his ongoing career, which includes representing the national team 19 times over six years, playing for three Premiership teams and his slight inability to be coached on the field.
His easy going personality off the field is juxtaposed with his wrecking ball attitude on it. Known for bowling over smaller players when he gets the ball, Wei said rugby has always been fun for him since he picked up the game in England while attending boarding school as a kid.
“I don’t actually think I’m that easy to manage,” said Wei with a chuckle. “I’m definitely not coach-able. I would actually say I’m one of the most difficult players to coach.”
Wei noted he likes to play the prop position in a very particular way, “hunting” for the ball. “I want the ball to come to me all the time. I love to run with the ball, that is my real talent, defensively I’m OK, but I’m way better with the ball.”
Wei said being a good prop is all about technique, and he can overcome an opponent simply through proper weight placement and skill.
He noted the biggest strain in a scrum is on his neck.
Wei got his first cap for the national squad back in 2010 against Norway, subbing on at half-time, and said national team coach Leigh Jones had to take a hardline approach with him.
“He was very strict with me, and I think it was good. I remember when he subbed me on the first time, he said, ‘If you’re not good, I’ll take you off right away.’”
Wei obviously pulled his weight for the national squad, but noted he was definitely nervous the first few times he pulled the jersey over his head, as well as feeling extremely proud.
Wei also has a robust domestic career ongoing, running out for Kerry Hotel Kowloon Rugby (where he won a league title) and then Societe Generale Valley from 2014-16 where he won the grand championship twice and scored a decisive try in the 2015 final against the Hong Kong Cricket Club.
“I just remember they really wanted to set the tone in that game right from the start, and I helped set the tone for my team, so that felt really good.”
He said he has been lucky injury wise, with only one surgery under his belt (for a torn MCL) and noted he does not plan on slowing down any time soon.
“I want to play until I’m 35, that is always been the plan, so we’ll see.”
Unfortunately, Wei’s HKFC lost their first game of the season on Saturday (October 13) to Kerry Hotel Kowloon Rugby 23-17.