By Christopher KL Lau
The waiting and anticipation is finally over. The fall out of the discriminatory CFA poster has come and gone, the furore over the pitch and the ticketing sales has subsided; both the star studded China squad and the Hong Kong national team have flown thousands of miles around the Asia Pacific completing fixtures and have just gone through their final paces. Beyond the media buzz and hype, it now all just comes down to 11 men taking on another 11 men over ninety minutes on equal footing.
An audience expected to be in the millions across Hong Kong, China and overseas will now eagerly countdown to the World Cup qualifier between Hong Kong and China in what is seen as a winners takes all (well at least second place) titanic clash. China will be seeking to make their chances count after amassing a whopping 44 shots on and off target against a resilient Hong Kong in the reverse fixture this past September.
The World Cup is still a few years away and there is a chance both will not qualify but this match to both sets of fans may as well be the World Cup final. It is a rivalry made all the more intense given all that has happened in social, cultural and economic spheres between the two and it goes beyond just a mere game. Given recent events between Hong Kong and China and a growing collective sense of identity in Hong Kong, both teams will be playing for bragging rights and of course, more importantly…..Pride.
All pictures from Christopher KL Lau