After being admitted to a year-long exchange programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, College Tribune Sports Editor Chris Foley saw Hong Kong’s domestic football league as the perfect opportunity to immerse himself in local life. After taking on a role as an editor at local publication offside.hk, Chris went on to cover numerous domestic, continental and international games throughout the country, enjoying some great moments along the way. Here is his reflection on what was a rollercoaster year…
It’s August 2016, and having not yet acclimatised to Hong Kong’s unforgiving summer climate, I am sweating buckets in the stand of this small, atmospheric stadium in East Asia. The passionate crowd are in full voice before kick-off, and people are drinking, singing, and chanting, all in a language which before now I had only heard in old martial arts movies. Before long the team comes out, the national anthem plays, and instead of singing along, the entire crowd greets it with a chorus of boos. Yes, I had been anticipating a semblance of culture shock upon embarking on this adventure, but within minutes of my first game in Hong Kong I knew the extent to which this was a country with a sports culture like no other.
To many, my decision to immerse myself in a job covering such an unknown, internationally irrelevant league was a curious one. But perhaps it is the league’s lack of notoriety which allows it to keep its charm. Free of the excesses of multi-billion dollar sports leagues, the Hong Kong Premier League offers a match day experience featuring passionate, vociferous fans who create an atmosphere far superior to what one could experience in Old Trafford, The Emirates, or beyond.
On a personal level, working in sports journalism in Hong Kong afforded me some incredible opportunities that I never would have gotten back home. Some of my best memories from the year are of covering continental competitions. Asian Champions league games were watched by yours truly in plush press-areas of 40,000 seater stadiums, and followed up by utter bemusement on my part as I attempted to attain a quotes from post-match press conferences given in Cantonese.
From the point of view of a budding journalist, the highlight of my career thus far came as I got the chance to speak to a hero of mine in the form of World Cup winning Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who currently coaches Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande. The old cliché of never meeting your heroes could not have been truer in this case, but I enjoyed pitting my wits against ‘Felipao’ in the Press-Room, as well as countless other famous figures from the footballing world.
Luiz Felipe Scolari – Formerly of Chelsea and Brazil, seen here responding to criticism from a certain College Tribune editor.
Now back home, with the beauty of hindsight, I can’t help but think of how lucky I was to have experienced academia in such vastly different surroundings. But as is often the case with university life, it was experiences outside of the classroom that were the most formative, and in particular my time working in the pulsating world of Hong Kong journalism. It was my prior writing experience with The College Tribune that helped me to land that particular job, without which I wouldn’t have even gotten my foot in the door. All of this points to the fact that, as students in a university as vibrant and esteemed as UCD, we are spoiled for choice in terms of extra-curricular opportunities just waiting for us to sink our teeth into. So get involved, you never know where you could end up!
Here at The College Tribune, we are always looking for talented, enthusiastic sports journalists to contribute to our publications. If think you have what it takes, please contact us at email@example.com for further information on how to get involved.
Chris Foley – Sports Editor