Monday, 2 August 2010

East meets West in South London

The tourists from Hong Kong on the way to play
the first match of the tour against Dulwich Hamlet

In August 1947 the players of the Sing Tao Sports Club of Hong Kong arrived in London for a groundbreaking tour of southern England. League and cup double winners in their own land, the team had embarked on a very successful world tour at the start of the summer.

Success was swift for the oriental club. It was still in its infancy, having only been founded in 1939 by Mr A.W. Hoe, then Hong Kong’s leading newspaper magnate.

The first ports of call were Manilla in the Philippines, Singapore in Malaya and Rangoon in Burmah. Of the 24 matches already played they had won 21. The amateur side were the first Chinese club to visit Britain, and their first match was to be against Dulwich Hamlet. There was much media interest leading up to the opening game, indeed a film crew turned up at Champion Hill to make a newsreel. The Chinese ambassador was also present with the team at Dulwich.

Photographer William Vanderson spent the day with the tourists taking a number of pictures. The shots included: the players enjoying a game of handball at the Stamford Bridge training session on the morning of the opening match with Dulwich; the Sing Tao manager sitting by the goalpost watching his team train; the players in the bath at Chelsea; the party on their way to Dulwich; Chinese naval cadets at Champion Hill; and action shots of the match.

As far back as 19th April 1947 Dulwich Hamlet Football Club stated in its matchday programme “It is probable that a team from China will visit this country in the Autumn, and if so we have been invited to entertain them. We believe the standard of football is very high in China, they beat England [sic] in the last Olympic Games, so we shall have a good attraction early in the new season, which incidentally will commence one week earlier this year.”

According to my records Great Britain actually beat China in the Berlin Olympics of 1936, and not the other way round. But there had been a world war since then so we won’t quibble with the Hamlet press secretary.

The squad of eighteen players was captained by the 41 year-old, Fung King. The veteran of the side had commenced his career twenty years earlier, and had even represented his country in Germany, in the Chinese Olympic team of 1936. He had witnessed major changes in the game including the total restructuring of the Hong Kong Football Association after the Second World War.

Chinese naval cadets from Chatham, complete with handbells and
cheering their team on at Champion Hill.

Following the Hamlet match, Sing Tao completed fixtures against two representative sides: the Athenian League and the Isthmian League. Representing the Isthmian League in their match against the tourists was Dulwich Hamlet’s Pat Connett, a late replacement [for George Bunce] in the Isthmian side. He scored the third ‘home’ goal in a 3-2 victory. Nine matches in all were played on the month long tour against the south’s top amateur sides, including Walton & Hersham (champions of the Corinthian League), Walthamstow Avenue, Oxford City, Ilford, Bromley and Barnet.

I would hazard a guess that Sing Tao - sporting their yellow and black hooped jerseys, black shorts and yellow and black hooped stockings - were nicknamed either the Hornets or the Wasps.

The following report in the South London Press headed
“CHINESE HAD EVERYTHING BUT ABILITY TO SHOOT WELL” appeared a few days after the Hamlet match.

“Though the Chinese footballers who met Dulwich on Saturday were beaten 5-2 the score was very far from being a true indication of the strength of the two teams.

On most occasions the Hong Kong boys did things with the ball that had Hamlet all at sea. Time and again their uncanny anticipation and short passing split the home team’s defence wide open, but not one Chinamen had much in the way of shooting power.

The scoring was opened within two minutes of the start when Tommy Jover, ran the ball past the adbvancing Chinese keeper. Within 20 minutes Beglan and Davies had added two more for the Hamlet.

In that first half the visitors had eight good chances of scoring, but only Che Win Keung could score. The other forwards passed and fiddled until the opportunity had gone.

The second half went pretty much the same way, with the Chinese boys well on top in midfield, but very poor (they even missed a penalty) in front of goal.

Second half goals were scored for Hamlet by Connett and Jones, while Tsao Chiu Ting reduced the deficit.

Hamlet on Saturday’s display will be a hard team to beat this season. Sing Tao Sports Club, once they improve their shooting powers, will be even harder.”

Original article from HH7 2003. Copyright: Jack McInroy ©

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