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months of these odd-numbered
years, when there’s no major international tournament
to focus on, most people involved with football take the
opportunity to enjoy a slightly longer break than usual.
Not so LMA management committee member Alan
Curbishley who, instead of heading for a welcoming
sun lounger, took a fight to Hong Kong to
work as a TV pundit at the Te
Barclays Asia Trophy.
Te Barclays Asia Trophy,
which was contested for the
ffth time in July of this
year, is the only
Barclays Premier
League afliated
competition held
outside England.
Tis year’s
featured three
English clubs,
Chelsea, Aston Villa
and Blackburn
Rovers, and the
Hong Kong First
Division league
champions Kitchee.
So how was the arrival of
these English clubs and their
star players greeted by the local
fans? “Tey reminded me of fans of a
band who had bought all the CDs, but
never seen them live on stage,” says Curbishley (above,
right, with TV anchorman John Dykes). “Tis was their
opportunity to see their heroes live for the frst time and
it was as if some of them couldn’t quite believe what
they were seeing.”
Curbishley, who was visiting Hong Kong for the frst
time, was impressed by the reception that the event
received. “I took Charlton to Shanghai and a few other
places for a pre-season tour about 10 years ago and I’ve
been to Singapore for a break and both times I got a
sense of how big our football is in that part of the
world, but I was still taken aback by the enthusiasm and
knowledge that the Hong Kong fans showed.”
Tat enthusiasm rubbed of on the visiting teams, as
Curbishley afrms: “Te English clubs really embraced
the tournament and got into the swing of it,” he says.
“Chelsea even put on a fun training session
for the fans and thousands turned
out to watch it.”
And did the local team,
Kitchee, embrace it too?
“I think they were a
bit overawed,” says
Curbishley. “I got the
feeling that they’re
probably a bit better
than they showed,
especially in the
frst game against
Chelsea. Tey were
a little depleted
because Hong
Kong were playing a
World Cup qualifer
at the same time and
they’d lost some players
to that, but I think a lot
of it was to do with nerves;
they were a bit like a lower
league team playing one of the
bigger teams in a cup match. Tey
expressed themselves a lot better in their
game against Blackburn.”
Tat extra training session must have had the desired
efect, as Chelsea went on to win the tournament,
beating Aston Villa in the fnal. But, as the old cliché
has it, football was the real winner out there. As
Curbishley says: “I don’t think anyone was left in any
doubt as to how well the Barclays Premier League is
supported in that part of the world.”
LMA committee member visits Hong Kong to witness the Barclays Asia Trophy