By Christopher KL Lau
Hong Kong’s next game in their pulsating World Cup campaign will be away in Qatar on March 24th; a win there could mean Hong Kong’s dream run possibly continuing to the promised land of the final Asian World Cup qualifying round. There all the big guns, like Japan and South Korea, will lie in wait. Whatever the result is in Doha, Qatar, Hong Kong’s World Cup campaign has caught the public imagination and re-energized the local game, raising the fans’ interest to levels not seen in decades. The focal points of discussion have been the fantastic 0:0 draws with China, both home and away, with the significance of the matches moving beyond mere sports games and into the realm of self-identity and a greater sense of community.
One of the mainstays of the Hong Kong team, Jaimes McKee, has been a leading light in driving the Hong Kong team forward and has contributed some crucial goals to keep the national’s side momentum going as the team continues to defy all expectations. On the eve of Hong Kong’s make-or-break away game against Qatar (who will host the 2022 World Cup) McKee kindly took sometime to talk about the team’s chances and why they have been punching above their weight to the point where they are on the verge of making the final Asian World Cup qualifying round.
Jaimes McKee discussed the pivotal match against Qatar, the historical games against China and Hong Kong’s sense of self-identity.
Do you think the momentum behind the Hong Kong national team will continue beyond the World Cup qualifiers and which direction will the Hong Kong team take now?
You would hope that interest would continue but I guess the problem is that if we don’t qualify for the next stage then I don’t know when our next games (as a national team) will be, so I think it is important for the Hong Kong football association to try and keep the momentum going. Obviously it has been great the support – especially at the games, which has been amazing- so there is obviously interest there. We need to keep playing friendly games if we can and because we have done well, with some good results, then hopefully we will get some good friendly matches and this will get some people back to watch games. There is interest there but we need to continue to foster that interest further.
Hong Kong drew 0:0 with China both home and away. Was this more down to China playing below par or was it due to Hong Kong defying expectations and raising their game?
I think it was a bit of both. I think Hong Kong played well and did great to hold both games nil all and of course China did have chances, so obviously there was a little bit of luck involved and that sort of is the beauty of football really as you never really know what the result will be. The underdog can always come up with a surprise result. There was probably uproar in China because Hong Kong is seen as a province of China and a small province really and for us to be able to draw with the whole of China is pretty amazing and they didn’t know how that could be possible.
I don’t know if this was down to Hong Kong playing amazingly or China not playing as well as they could do. Given the size of China and the number of people they do have, they have never really performed well on an international level. The Hong Kong players really gave it their all and I am really proud of the results.
Do you think the Hong Kong Team can get a result? How have you guys been preparing?
It will be a tough game as Qatar are obviously a strong team and they have already won the group, while playing away is always more difficult. We have not started preparing yet (at the time of the interview) but I am sure over the next few days they will announce the squad [McKee was included] and then we still start. Everyone will be up for it, especially as we have been on a good run and we have not conceded many goals. We are a tough team to score against and I think everyone will be motivated and we are looking to get another result, especially with our great support.
Why has there been such a surge in interest in the national team? Do you think it is down to a growing sense of self-identity?
I do think there is now an increased Hong Kong identity and people need a form of outlet to express this and one of the ways they have done this is through the Hong Kong team.
Qatar Versus Hong Kong – 2018 World Cup Qualifying – March 24th, 2016 in Doha, Qatar.
Christopher KL Lau is a Photographer, Editor and Marketing Consultant for Offside.hk