19th July 2013
Danny and Josh’s Work Placement with the Hong Kong FA
We arrived in Hong Kong at 11am on Thursday and got on the express from the airport to ‘Central’ on Hong Kong Island. We then got a taxi from the station to the apartment, the boot of the taxi was open and my case was hanging out because it was too big to fit in.The apartment that we are staying in is lovely and even has a back patio/decking area, which I am told is extremely rare in Hong Kong.We were very happy to learn that the apartment has air con as the humidity is overwhelming, but we seem to be getting used to it already.
After a quick shower and unpacking our cases we made our way to Hong Kong Park, we did some sightseeing on our way to ‘The Peak Tram’. The tram takes tourists and locals up a steep hill to a lavish and modern viewing tower from which you can see Hong Kong island and the Hong Kong mainland, the views are incredible and we are planning to go again at night.
We then made our way to The Hong Kong Football Club (this is not to be mistaken for an actual football club. It is actually the most high-end/private sports club, that was built by the Jockey Club, beneath the horse racing track that the club wanted to expand; with a plethora of sports to play there, we got presented with temporary memberships!). There is nothing like taking a dip in the pool under the city lights and skyscrapers at 9 at night!! Incredible!! After dinner at the club, we then made our way home to catch some much needed sleep as jet-lag had certainly kicked in, from being awake through 3 different time zones (UK, India and Hong Kong)
We left the apartment at 8:30am on Friday and arrived at the Hong Kong FA Head Quarters at 9:00am. All day was dedicated to us meeting each department manager (of which all of them were extremely friendly and welcomed us to Hong Kong).
List of who we met below:
- CEO Mark Sutcliffe – Overview of role, FA plans and strategy
- Emily – Head of Competitions
- Aaron – Head of Corporate Governance
- Pearl – Head of Marketing and Communications
- Louise – Financial Controller
- Vincent – General Secretary
- Steve – Technical Director
- Paul Woodland – Special Projects Manager
We were both given ‘all access’ passes to the events and stadiums throughout the Barclay’s Asia Trophy and a uniform gear too! We left the Head Quarters at 4.00pm and ourselves and Paul made our way back to are apartments on the Hong Kong island. Everyone on the underground (MTR) are hilarious as they are always on their phones, as they even walk along in peak times watching films on them!! In the evening we went out for a meal and then into central Hong Kong, to Soho for some drinks and to socialise with our new landlords!
Waking up at 6am, with jet lag, wasn’t exactly easy! Nevertheless, myself and Josh made it into the office at 7:15am as instructed. Over the next three days we would be a part of the Hong Kong FA’s Competitions Team.
We are working alongside; the Premier League, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sunderland’s coaching staff. The Premier League runs three community projects in each country that they work with during the English preseason. These are called ‘Creating Chances’ for youngsters (coached by the Premier League club’s coaches), ‘Premier Skills’ (a coaching course for all the local coaches and a refereeing course taught by two Premier League refs). Being part of the behind the scenes team, (and sometimes much more heavily involved!), alongside helping with the linguistics of the programme and overall set up, we were able to rub shoulder to shoulder with both the Premier League representatives and the coaches themselves.
After long periods of time out in the humid and extremely hot weather, we were in desperate need of a shower and a nap after our days’ work. On the Saturday afternoon after work, the plan was to catch a ferry to an island called ‘Lamma’, housing some local fishing villages. However, we got on the wrong ferry!! We ended up being on the completely wrong side of Lamma and with there being no ferry to the other side. The walk is over an hour in the humid sun, so we had a quick drink and headed back to Hong Kong Island.
Sunday and Monday afternoon/evening was more relaxed and we got to the places we were supposed to go. Sunday consisted of a swim and an evening of watching the Ashes (due to the time difference of seven hours). When Monday afternoon came around, we decided to go and look at one of the night markets and bought a few watches…they’re real we swear!!!
Quite honestly, putting today into words doesn’t do it justice. Today, we visited the Hong Kong Stadium for the first time, and we were ‘wowed’ on arrival. The 40,000 seater stadium is situated within all the tall buildings, yet the backdrop also includes a picturesque view of trees and hills; it really is a fantastic location.
Equipped with our all access passes, we made our way into the underbelly of the stadium where there are; 6 dressing rooms, the media suite, medical centre, referees room, doping room and the tunnel out onto the pitch, where the players would be walking out from, to sell-out crowds this week. Quickly, we familiarized ourselves with the Hong Kong FA and the Premier League representatives and got to work on the match-day rehearsals and routines for the up and coming games. Being behind the scenes at a game that is to be shown around the world, it is evident that every second matters and if one thing doesn’t go to plan, then everything will be backed up. We were involved with the players and referee tunnel timings, handshake preparations and on the match days, we are to be in charge of the pre-game pitch proceedings. This consists of a team of 48 Hong Kong locals that will be carrying: a centre circle sized Premier League badge, a big shirt from each of the teams that are playing. Being given the responsibility to do this on the playing field is a fantastic opportunity to see how things operate, not only behind the scenes before the match, but leading right up to kick off in the spotlight of the pitch also!
From the rehearsals, and after some local cuisine with the Hong Kong FA staff, we made our way to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the lavish base of the three Premier League clubs and the Premier League whilst staying in Hong Kong. Upon arrival, we were chaperoned up to the suite where the pre-match press conference was taking place. Each club was represented by their manager and their captain, including South China, the team from Hong Kong in the tournament. Being in a room with well known sports journalists, including Brian Swanson from Sky Sports and commentator Martin Tyler, you really get a great sense of where the stories come from, that you read in the newspaper or online every day. Not only the words said by the managers/players are picked up on, but the way in which they are said and the body language that goes with it also. This became evident when the stories in the news later that day were the ones that we had heard literally only an hour or so before, it was amazing!
After the press conference, we then made our way back to the Hong Kong Stadium. The evening was dedicated to each of the English clubs participating in an open training session attended by local fans, for free. Our first job was to work closely with the Premier League on the pitch to help Manchester City set up their session! We spoke to Brian Kidd a lot and Josh even passed to Pablo Zabaleta! We were in touching distance of all the players and staff of the clubs for a good four hours. For the Hong Kong FA, we were responsible for looking after the ‘Golden Circle’. This was a kind of ‘Fan-Zone’ and a group of around 80 supporters from each club were able to stand down the tunnel to receive autographs once each session had finished. When our work was complete, we were able to have a few photos of our own and have a quick word with the stars that we see on the TV every week. As days go…
We were given the morning off to do some sightseeing and a small spot of shopping in Hong Kong Times Square; only a few minutes taxi ride from the apartment we were staying in and the Hong Kong Stadium. Today would mark the opening of the 2013 Barclays Asia Trophy and the excitement around the city and with the people we were working alongside was rising. We arrived at the stadium at 1:45pm, four hours and fifteen minutes before kick-off, or so we thought… (It’s worth mentioning at this point that it is currently Hong Kong’s tropical season…)
Our duties at first were to establish ourselves in our team of 48 peers who would, up to kick off would have the responsibility of ‘field of play affairs’. However, the weather had different ideas! Due to the heavy rain, the proceedings leading up to the start of the tournament were unfortunately cancelled, this meant our duties change somewhat. However, seeing first-hand the process of decision making when something has happened completely out of your hands, was a fantastic experience for us both, but little did we know it was only the beginning.
As our role had effectively been made redundant for the evening, we were then given the job of assisting with the media department; dealing with both domestic and foreign representatives. Everything was running as it should and everyone was writing up the likes of the team sheets and player news, until the weather got even worse. A torrential downpour meant that a meeting was held between the managers, the referee, the Hong Kong FA CEO- Mark Sutcliffe and Richard Scudamore. Again, myself and Josh were bystanders to what was effectively a Neil Doncaster Management Game task! The decision was made that the kick-off would be delayed by half an hour and the match would consist of two, fourty minute halves (as the matches were back to back and the stadium had a cut-off point).
Our roles continued with the press and media representatives throughout the two games, however between the two semi-final matches, we did venture out on to the pitch to collect equipment left by the clubs and being on the pitch with a stadium of 40,000 people was amazing! The day certainly had its twist and turns for everyone behind the scenes and it was an incredible experience to be a part of.
We were up at the crack of dawn! Josh and I made our way to Po Kong Village, the venue that we were at on both Saturday and Monday; for the Premier Skills and Creating Chances and the Premier League international community scheme. This day was named, ‘The Community Festival’ and was the final day of the schemes. The local children, coaches and referees enjoyed a final day of matches and drills before three players from each club arrived, to sign autographs and get involved with what was a great morning.
In the afternoon, we both attended a knowledge seminar ran by both the Premier League and the three representative Premier League clubs. The heads of the commercial departments and the communication departments gave talks on their clubs innovations and afterwards gave us a great opportunity to network and meet some very interesting and esteemed football business men and women.
Due to the sudden change in weather, we were called in to the Stadium in the morning to help with the maintenance of the pitch. When we arrived, the whole playing surface was covered in at least 3cm of water. By the time we had left; only a few puddles could be seen. The weather and the previous matches had already taken their toll on the pitch and if the games tomorrow were to take place, they will definitely be played on a surface way below standard. We were due to attend the afternoon press conference however once again, due to our services being needed on the pitch, we had to miss it.
As previously requested the day before, we got to the stadium at 8am on Saturday – the match day. We got to work straight away helping to drain and uncover the worse areas (that we had protected overnight). We then went on to redress the pitch with sand, before flattening and preparing it for inspections throughout the afternoon by the referees. As kick-off approached, we felt a sense of pride and achievement as the games would go ahead! During the matches, myself and Josh had to keep an eye on the condition of the surface and help wherever we could with members of the Hong Kong FA and the Premier League (who later invited us out for some drinks with them after the game). At the final whistle of the final match (between Manchester City and Sunderland), we were in charge of both directing the players to the right place to collect their medal, and to also hand out the champions champagne! After this our work was done and we found ourselves later that night networking and chatting to the familiar faces throughout the competition and many that you’d recognize on your screens at home too!
Apart from the day we arrived, this was our only day off since arriving to Hong Kong! We spent the day sightseeing and having a swim in the sports club! It was lovely to put our feet up as they haven’t touched the floor since arriving!
After waking up, Josh and I took the short walk to the Hong Kong Football Club. As the weather had finally picked up, we decided to take a swim and relax in the afternoon city sun. Today marked the day that Manchester United would finish their tour of Asia with a match against local side Kitchee FC (our new Hong Kong team). We were due to start work at the stadium at 4pm and arrived promptly to assess the condition of the pitch whilst meeting and greeting the Manchester United backroom staff.
Given the duty of ‘field of play instructor’, Josh and I were in charge of 15 workers that would hold large banners in the centre circle whilst the teams walked out on to the pitch. When our duty was done, we were free to watch the match, however keeping an eye out for when/if we would be needed to help.
When the game ended and we said our goodbyes, ourselves, Mark Sutcliffe and Rachael Sutcliffe sat down back at the apartment with a glass of champagne to mark the end of what was an incredible week for Hong Kong football, with its highs and lows! Nevertheless, every match went ahead with sell-out crowds.
We spent our penultimate day at a theme park called ‘Ocean Park’. It is situated in the South of Hong Kong and is built brilliantly over a hill top, separated by a cable car taking you from one side of the park, over the large hill, to the other. Today was definitely the hottest of our stay and we had to use factor 65 sun cream!! unbelievable! I still burnt… In the evening, we went to the longest escalator in the world and had a bite to eat as well. Tomorrow will be our last day in Asia’s World City…
Today is our final day in Hong Kong! We can’t believe how fast time as flown by and how much we’ve been up to! I’m sat in the new Hong Kong airport now (which is so big and modern it’s quite hard to want to leave!). Our final day consisted of a trip into the Hong Kong FA offices to say our last goodbyes. We shared contact information with the fantastic people we had been working with, and had a few photos with them too – they truly are lovely people to be working with.
When back at the apartment, we finished off our packing and jumped in a taxi to the airport; where we are now reminiscing on what has been an unforgettable fortnight and episode of life experience.
We both would like to take the time to say our own personal words to you on a personal level regarding our time in Hong Kong…
D & J: Thank you if you have read our blog and we hope we have kept you entertained on our travels throughout the past two weeks. We would also like to pass on our deepest thanks to everyone that made our Hong Kong internship possible: UCFB Staff, The Hong Kong FA, The Premier League, the participating clubs and especially Mark, Rachel and George Sutcliffe for their incredible hospitality and generosity. We honestly do not feel that the words ‘thank you’ are enough, it’s been an amazing time of our lives.
Finally we’d like to thank our pilot, who will get us back to London safe! (via Mumbai for a 12 hour stop…!). May the 29 hour journey home begin I guess.
Many thanks and best wishes,
Danny & Josh