In August, the name of the “Konger FC,” a football club for Hong Kong immigrants in the UK, gained prominence, becoming widely recognized within the immigrant community and attracting many individuals interested in football to join.
“This is a rare opportunity for us. Every week, we get to play football with like-minded people, bringing together Hong Kong immigrants in the UK. It’s a chance for Hongkongers to gather, and for the younger generation to connect.” Konger FC, the team established by Hong Kong expatriates in Manchester, is led by Nigel Lee. When asked about the happiest moments since the team’s formation, he emphasizes the joy of fostering friendship through football.
For Mr. Lee, the rankings in various competitions are secondary; the primary focus is spreading a positive football culture to the next generation of Hongkongers. The team serves as a platform to unite Hong Kong immigrants in the UK, creating a sense of “home” for everyone involved.
Every weekend, members of Konger FC can be found sprinting across various community pitches, in addition to participating in local leagues. The team, composed of Hong Kong expatriates from Manchester, organizes friendly matches. These matches not only enhance their football skills but also cultivate stronger bonds of friendship.
Unexpected Delight Little Soccer Receives Great EncouragementAfter nearly a year of preparation, the club finally received notice from the English Football Association on Aug. 21, officially registering as a club under the FA. This signifies the club’s eligibility to participate in FA-sanctioned football events. Although starting from the lowest division, for these Hong Kong “new immigrants” in the UK, it is a tremendous source of encouragement.
On Aug. 26 of this year, Konger FC played their first match against a local team in the southern part of Manchester, UK. The game attracted around 300 Hong Kong residents to come and show their support. Although the team didn’t secure a victory, the enthusiasm of the Hong Kong supporters inspired the players on the field. Shortly after the match, there was good news as Konger FC emerged victorious in their second match in the lower division of the English league on Sep. 2.
Mr. Lee mentioned that some of the team members had only played casual football, known as “衛生波” (leisure football), in Hong Kong. Now, playing in the UK, they were receiving star-like treatment, which was quite surprising and exciting for them. He shared his experience, stating, “The atmosphere of playing football in the UK is really great. At least a hundred people are watching each game. Perhaps in Hong Kong, you don’t get to experience such an atmosphere. It’s rare to have a dedicated group of supporters who follow you wherever you go!”
Mr. Lee did not anticipate that a small football team could have such a powerful unifying force. The unity of Hong Kong people coming together to cheer and support the team made them feel determination and passion once again.
Mr. Lee recounted, “Some people traveled three hours by car from London to support us, and others shared with us the situation in Hong Kong, talking with teary eyes. Indeed, living in the UK is not easy for everyone; they have given up a lot and are facing a new life. We hope that in the UK, Hong Kong people can help each other.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Provide Injury TreatmentIn the world of soccer, injuries are an inevitable part of the game, ranging from dislocations and muscle strains to falls and fractures—all inherent aspects of an athlete’s journey. Among the Hong Kong immigrants in the UK, friends with a background in traditional Chinese medicine have willingly joined Konger FC’s supporters’ group, offering discounted injury treatments to the players.
Mr. Lee, one of the team members, explains that although the UK has the National Health Service (NHS), it doesn’t cover traditional Chinese medicine for injuries. Seeking such treatments outside can be expensive. Fortunately, the team has the support of the Hong Kong-based Chinese medicine clinic ‘青木堂’ (Qingmu Tang) in Manchester. Mr. Lit, the clinic’s director and a passionate fan extends his support to Konger FC matches, providing treatment services at a discounted rate. Mr. Lee emphasizes the importance of this assistance: “Our incomes in the UK are not very high, and we don’t want playing soccer to become a financial burden. Soccer inevitably leads to injuries, so we are truly grateful for Mr Lit’s support, as well as the many volunteer first-aiders who help during matches. It’s great assistance for us.”
Reflecting on the support received from the Hong Kong’ supporters’ group’ during these times, Mr. Lee expresses gratitude for people from various professions coming forward to contribute. Outdoor equipment stores, construction companies, auto repair services, and many Hong Kong-owned restaurants have become loyal fans of the club, providing mutual support and encouragement.
The Warmth of Home Foreign Players Joining Hong Kong Soccer TeamsForeign players joining Hong Kong soccer teams are experiencing the warmth of a ‘home.’ The sense of community and camaraderie among the local players and supporters creates a welcoming atmosphere for these international athletes.
The journey begins with the decision of foreign players to become part of Hong Kong-based soccer teams. As they integrate into the local sports scene, they find themselves embraced by the close-knit community of players and fans. The shared passion for soccer transcends cultural and linguistic differences, fostering a sense of unity and belonging.
The camaraderie extends beyond the field, with local players and supporters actively engaging in creating a supportive environment for their international counterparts. This experience goes beyond the sport itself; it becomes an exploration of shared values, friendship, and the unique sense of ‘home’ that the Hong Kong soccer community provides.
As foreign players adapt to their new surroundings, the warmth and inclusivity of the Hong Kong soccer family become a significant part of their journey. The mutual respect and support exchanged between local and international members contribute to the rich tapestry of the soccer community, turning teams into more than just sports entities – they become a home away from home for players from around the world.
A-Level Coaches Cultivating the Next GenerationMany hidden talents among Hong Kong immigrants in the UK possess high coaching qualifications, including holding the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) A-Level coaching certificate. However, they face challenges in converting these qualifications into the equivalent coaching credentials in the UK. Despite this, these coaches are enthusiastic about passing on their knowledge to the next generation.
Mr. Lee explains that the ‘KONGER U Team’ has been specifically established to train the next generation of Hong Kong immigrants in the UK. It invites A-Level soccer coaches to conduct training sessions. These coaches, even though they may not have UK coaching certificates, are eager to share their expertise and contribute to the development of young talents in the community.
Mr. Lee shares, “The atmosphere for learning and playing soccer in the UK is much better than in Hong Kong, and it’s even more enjoyable when the whole family participates together. The primary goal of training the U team is to increase the children’s training hours, thereby enhancing their skills. Many parents from the U team actively participate in our friendly matches or seven-a-side leagues. They have consistently expressed the desire for the club to have its own youth teams, allowing their children to meet more kids. Nurturing the next generation has always been the club’s vision, as we hope to see Hong Kong players shine on the international soccer stage.”
In just one year, from a 7-a-side team to now involving hundreds of participants, Mr. Lee reflects, “I never anticipated such a tremendous response to the establishment of our club, especially the spontaneous support from Hong Kong people during external competitions. People come with drums to cheer and support, which is truly touching. The matches are exhilarating, and it seems like overseas Hongkongers are waiting for something that can bring everyone together, working towards a common goal!” ◇