It was one of those things, you know the kind; a great idea” but someone’s got to do it” there was talk, not much action, statements like “all you got to do,”……” what you need is” there were people away for new year holidays, people picked for management positions excusing themselves unable to commit.
We attended the second managers meeting with only suggested names for the team being agreed upon. We decided in a previous discussion that The Guangzhou Gypsies was the name and we had asked about tactics and put together a basic format to build the team to tournament level and play no matter what. At the meeting the whole game plan, name and generally our input was played down, but a unanimous decision for us to step into the breach and take over the management was made.
As Australians we grabbed the bull by the horns and went for broke…which was even more applicable, as the supposed sponsorship and registration fees never materialized with the initial members of management strangely quiet.
We had invested from our own coffers pitch fees, balls and kits so we decided to keep it alive and whilst looking for sponsors, trained the crew of mixed players picked from each of the existing league teams. Checking the calendar we had a total of twenty days to train find sponsorship design and print kits and present ourselves and team in Hong Kong February 20-21.
The training was at night’ the season just before Chinese New Year brings bitterly cold winds and rain from snowcaps further north. Initial interests and associates just as cold with “hear say” remarks about our lack of football background and waiting for the hot potato to hit the ground.
This only encouraged us more; the players working hard in training methods that left them breathless were undaunted. We scraped argued and rattled cages between ourselves to find the right team and cash, to realize what had now become the seed of a concept; a league that would participate across China and greater Asia. Quite comical and almost fantasy considering we were grappling with trying to get to Hong Kong, but the spirit of the players was so tangible and the applicants trying out had risen from the initial 16 or so to 30 which only made our choices for the squad harder. Our final training session was to play The Elephant and Castle team; a team renown for hard play, thoughts of injury in everyone’s mind would cancel their chance in Honkers. The cheers that started to grow as we drummed them to an 8-0 defeat, sounded the bugle that we were ready.
We had secured a sponsor for our accommodation and we had covered the rest with the players only requiring to cover their train fare… and yes play like demons. We stood in Guangzhou East station a little in disbelief that we were actually going, arriving at the hotel and standing in full kit ready to go to the pitch was surreal to say the least, smiles and grins had an air of pinch me and I’ll wake up vibe, jokes and laughter were abundant.
We headed toward the pitch with the laughter subduing as each player considered his role for the day, we had become a team, our colours and name worn proud with an attitude of “well,, bring it and let’s see”.
They players warmed up, whispered and tensely encouraged all. We had six games over two days , each game two fifteen minute halves, no time to dawdle or slip up, in knock out / elimination tournament rules. The whistle blew and the gypsies were born, the realization they were playing kicked in and they turned on the juice. Game 1, 2 and 3 played like a tune from a fiddle with the scores reflecting that the Gypsies were on fire! 5-0, 6-0, 5-1, Looking more like McEnroe’s tennis score card than a football match the Gypsies danced and clapped Gypsy King songs and chanted Gypsies Goal! Goal! Gold! Realization of what we had done was apparent in the massive grins everyone was wearing.
Day 2 was tentative in the management camp as sponsorship had not flowed smoothly and hotel management was far less than polite. We kept the players on the boil and headed to the pitch once again. Our first game was against a local team. They played well but were outgunned by the Gypsies 5-1 , who were still riding high on the previous days score line, we had dropped a player through injury and had a couple of others with slight limps.
I was asked by the players as we warmed up who was the team to beat; as they felt there must be a team out there that wouldn’t be so easy; looking at a few of the games my answer was simple “The Gypsies” we had the highest goal tally without a loss and dressed in our away kits shining in the brilliant sunny day Hong Kong had turned on.
Hong Kong Football Club (nick named by us the KFC’s) were certainly full of secret herbs and spices and not so “fingerlicking” good they played a tight game with quick passes and an assortment of Sunday afternoon British style, a game that left us with 6 players injured and our spirits definitely wounded 0-2 this being our chance at 1st place knocked from our hands.
We wrapped up the day with our final game 5-1 securing 3rd place in our debut tournament a fantastic result from the players and generous reward for our hard long hours.
I wish to thank many of the people that were involved and wish them success in their lives and congratulate them. My sentiment for those that stepped back when the shit hit the fan and the going got tough, better luck next time. To the players that tried and weren’t picked I can only say I wish the sponsorship and budget allowed us to take two teams as I know we would have “blitzkrieged” them into next year.
Finally and most certainly I’ve kept the best till last I wish to congratulate the best team anyone could have wished for as a birthday party, a group of men that wouldn’t give up, players that endured many obstacles to unfair decisions and still played as gentlemen with poise gratitude and a presence that made the Gypsies and the foundation of our association and our league. To my two comrades Trevor Savage and Simon Cormack it would never have been possible without your unflinching support and endless stamina, I have no doubt we will achieve the lofty goals we have set ourselves.
I am deeply moved and grateful to all, thank you all so very much