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  • Writer's pictureFranky Wong

Hong Kong Football Craze 香港足球狂熱 



What was the talk-of-the-town sport in the last 6 months in Hong Kong?

 

It must be football, no room for discussion.

 

Since the epic victory (first win in 29 years) against Team China by 2:1 in the pre-AFC Asian Cup close-door friendly and entry to the final stage of Asian Cup GS (albeit losing 0:1 vs Iran), the Hong Kong National Football Team has gained a lot of attention and fans support. A good hundred of fans had flown to Qatar to watch the game in person, chanted all day long until the games finished, many even made a same-day return to go back to work on the next day. The Hong Kong football fans had earned a remarkable respect from other football fans for their passion and their support and recognition for the athletes.

 

Soon enough, there were three football events: Michael Owen’s and Paul Scholes’ legendary teams visiting Hong Kong on 20 Jan 2024, then the Inter Miami CF big “show” at the Hong Kong Stadium in front of 40,000 spectators. Wrapping up the trilogy was the Chinese New Year Cup on 13 Feb, where 15 World Cup winners competed against the Hong Kong Legends team, offering a stunning 10 goals and priceless sportainment to over 20,000 spectators on the spot – the stars were staying to take photos, signing jerseys, and waving to the football fans at the stand. And we have yet to include the number of fans watching in front of their TV and mobile screens.

 

Football has always been the most spectated sport in Hong Kong, with rugby comes next thanks to Rugby Sevens, which makes it obvious the key to grow a sport into an industry: spectators. But what turns someone into a spectator? From the case of HK's recent football frenzy, there are 4 pull factors:

 

  1. It’s Wow – Recording Breaking: it was HK’s first time in the Asian Cup for 56 years. It was the first time for the invited football legends/celebrities to come to Hong Kong. And now they'd play before my very eyes? Shut up and take my money!

  2. It’s Convenient – Venue Accessibility: the trilogy shared the same venue: Hong Kong Stadium, which is centrally located and can accommodate over 40,000 spectators easily. For the Qatar matches, the stadiums in Doha are by no means close to us, but the transportation will still be modern convenient; they are also in international standard and sizeable enough, guaranteed to offer up-to-par spectator experience to visiting fans/tourists.

  3. It’s Human – The Bonding with Athlete: you don’t just go watch a match. You go watch the players – how they look, play the strategy, fight back… it doesn’t matter if you’ve barely heard of his name, if they are your home team or famous or not. Magical moments created by athletes relive outside of time via your fav online/livestreaming platform or chatty loyal fans; it draws people to wanting to be a part of the experience, to bond with the protagonist of story and feel the vibe in person.

  4. It’s Grand – Like an Invitation-only Occasion: the line-up of the 3 exhibition games was just… grand. Michael Owen, Paul Scholes* (substituted by Ryan Giggs), Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Del Pierro, David Villa… they are BIG NAMES in football. You could only see them on TV back in their prime days. But now you can see them at your home court. The same goes for the Asian Cup – it’s yet another chance to watch Team HK after 56 years. You will be part of the history – okay, I’ll get myself invited!

 

When we think of the development of sports industry, it’s easy to focus on the athlete, professional team, training facility/innovation, etc. But proven by the recent HK football events and how they were received, we say it’s time to work on spectatorship and customer experience.

 

Let’s look forward to the growth of numbers of spectators (not just the attention) in football matches in 2024!

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