AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying

‘I’ve not told my parents’ – meet a Hong Kong fan making the trip of a lifetime to watch his team play in North Korea

Hongkonger ‘ecstatic’ to be going to the game in Pyongyang even if it is the ‘riskiest place’ he’s travelled for football

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 5:55pm

While everyone in Hong Kong is confined to following the score via the internet, there is one fan who will be seeing the vital AFC Asian Cup qualifier live and in the flesh.

The Post spoke to Heilong via WeChat from Pyeongyang after arriving there from Beijing.

He is the only Hongkonger on the Koryo Tours package and one of the few from the city making the trip to watch Tuesday night’s game in the Kim Il-sung Stadium, where a crowd of 50,000 are expected to be backing the home team.

A handful of other Hong Kong fans have travelled from the city via one of the other North Korea travel companies, with suggestions that around 10 fans will make the trip for the game.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic to be in North Korea supporting Hong Kong while I’m here,” he said. “At the same time it is going to be a bit surreal, potentially I’m gonna be the only fan supporting Hong Kong. But I’m hoping I’m going to make it count.”

He knows he is up against it, though.

“I’m expecting a good turn out, a strong patriotic support from the home fans.”

So was it the lure of seeing Hong Kong qualify for next year’s Asian Cup or the chance to visit North Korea that was a bigger factor in taking the trip?

“To be honest it was a combination of both factors. It was a match between North Korea and Hong Kong in North Korea. And it was an opportunity to see a part of the world that everyone has difficulty in coming.”

With so much suspicion and misunderstanding of the country outside of North Korea what do people think of him going there to watch a match?

“My close friends and my wife think it is a great idea coming over seeing this, particularly this part of the world.

“However, I have not told my parents. I’m not really sure if they are keen on me coming here but I’ve taken the plunge and come over anyhow.”

‘I feel like I’m going home’ ­– North Korea mission forces Hong Kong’s Jack Sealy to return close to scene of his stay in the wilderness

That’s not to say that anyone who thought it was a good idea he go, thought the same about them going too.

“I did ask a number of people if they would come along with me but unfortunately I am coming along myself.”

So is this the type of thing he does all the time?

“Absolutely not. This is probably the riskiest place I have ever been to a match.

“The only other place that I could really remember that was slightly risky and maybe a bit left field was going through Romania and seeing Transylvania.

“This is going to be by far the strangest place I have ever watched a football match and in all honesty this might be in my lifetime as well.”

The question is will this once in a lifetime game see victory for the visitors?

“To be honest I think it’s going to be tough for Hong Kong to win this game.

“We met them on the plane. They were in good spirits and really focused on their way to travel. They were also at our hotel.”

How can I keep up with Hong Kong’s vital Asian Cup qualifier in North Korea? Well, there’s good news and bad news ...

Having seen the team in build-up to the game, how does he see it going?

“I think the likely score is going to be 3-1 North Korea.

“Putting Hong Kong in a bit of trouble right at the start of the game with home advantage and then over 90 minutes overpowering Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong teamtalk should be easy though: Go out and do it for the fan.”