I am an ex-pat Tottenham
Supporter having been a regular at the Lane for over 20 years before
moving overseas to work in 1993. One of the features of life in the UK
that I miss enormously is watching the Mighty Spurs live and so, when I
heard that they were participating in the Asia Cup in Beijing and
playing a friendly in Hong Kong, it was with much excitement.
Fortunately, my secretary has her priorities absolutely right, and
within a few minutes of becoming aware of the games I had a hotel sorted
and flight booked. Unfortunately, I have a colleague who is a WHU
supporter, and made the mistake of telling him about the tournament, but
luckily he booked a different flight and hotel.
I arrived in Beijing on the evening before the first two games. My hotel was a ten minute walk from Tiananmen Square, and so proudly wearing my 08-09 away strip shirt I hastily headed for the Square anticipating hoards of Hull, WHU and the Mighty supporters. However, the only Brits I came across was a small group of Hull City supporters being arrested for draping a flag over poor old Chairman Mao’s mausoleum !
Next day I headed for the ground early as I hadn’t bought a ticket. My East London buddy had been in the UK and had bought tickets for the Wednesday and Friday games at £38 each. However, I bought my ticket for just £8 at the ground and then headed for one of the several bars nearby. On entering Danger Doyle’s Irish Bar, I found it packed full of Hull and East Londoners, but not a single Tottenham shirt in sight, which is not surprising considering that only 23 had made the journey from the UK, while WHU had 100 travel with the official party and Hull City over 260 !
The atmosphere in the bar was cordial and even friendly, with WHU and Hull supporters flying their flags out of the windows. As I was the only one wearing a white shirt, the conversation soon reflected a lack of understanding of what quality football was all about and so I got fed up and headed for the ground. My £8 ticket gave me access to any part of the ground and I was soon comfortably settled in the Director’s box, just two rows back from Terry Venables who was there, he said, as an ambassador for Barclays. No wonder my bank charges have gone up.
In the first semi-final as we know, the Mighty Spurs beat WHU 1-0, but totally dominated the game and should have been three up by half time. Many match reports have been written elsewhere so I won’t recap on tactics or performances. However, I did not spot a single UK-based Spurs supporter in the ground, although the 23 must have been there somewhere. Thankfully, however, I did come across a group of ten Mansion shirt-cladded Chinese supporters who were, for the first ten minutes at least, very vocal. In the second game that day Hull beat the local team Gouan on penalties, but were lucky to do so with the Chinese playing a lovely passing game. However, the biggest pleasure for me came through texting my cockney colleague asking if he was enjoying the pleasures of his £38 ticket. During the second game, Mr. Redknapp and Mr. Bond came into the Director’s box and were very friendly and chatty. Mr. Jordan was, sadly, aggressive and very rude – I’ve never liked him really since he knocked Aleksic’s teeth out at old Trafford (but what a great night that was …).
The following day, Thursday, was football free and so we headed out to the Great Wall, with me once again proudly wearing my Spurs shirt. This proved to be a bit of a mistake as all the Hull City boys were on the Wall along with a few of the Spam, but the banter was generally good-natured apart from a few East Londoners, who chose not to take the cable car up to the Wall, preferring instead, the sweaty comforts of a bar stool.
On the Friday, it was time for the third place play off followed by the final. Word went around that everybody (well, WHU and Hull City) were meeting at Hooters before the game, but I gave this a miss and once again headed for the stadium an hour or so before kick off. Outside the ground I met Phil Brown, and, in his conversation with me, he epitomised the magnificent attitude of Hull City with regards this tour. The previous evening, Hull City FC had covered all the food and drinks bills of their travelling supporters in Danger Doyle’s Irish Bar and the manager and chairman had held a question and answer session. Inevitably, a few WHU gate crashed, but Brown spent time with them and also paid for their food and drinks. Tottenham, of course, did nothing to acknowledge even the 23 that travelled from London and, with the exception of Robbie Keane, (who stopped briefly to sign an Irish flag, but completely ignored Spurs supporters nearby) did not even show appreciation to any supporters at the end of their games.
During the entire tournament, the Hull supporters embraced and enjoyed the occasion. Some of them philosophically suggested that by next year they will be back to friendlies in East Yorkshire. In the third place play off WHU comfortably beat Gouan 2-0 and as we know the final finished 3-0 to Tottenham, who played a lovely passing game, and although this was hardly more than a pre-season friendly, I am not optimistic about Hull’s chances this season, but cautiously optimistic about our boys, (but how many times …).
The next day I headed for Hong Kong and on the Sunday, in incredibly hot and humid conditions, saw the Mighty deservedly lose to a very good South China.
However, it was after this game that the true Tottenham Hotspur was realised.
Hull City had looked after their supporters in Beijing. WHU at least acknowledged their followers, but the Tottenham hierarchy and team (and there was quite a few of them), with the exception of Redknapp and Bond, totally ignored the small number that had spent many hundreds of pounds travelling to support the team.
After the Hong Kong game, a large crowd of Tottenham supporters, including many ex-pats living in Hong Kong, gathered at the players exit. As the bus left, not a single player acknowledged or waved at the crowd, leaving a sense of disappointment and a disgust at the attitude of highly paid players. While it is not as true as it used to be to say ‘We pay your wages’, a smile and a wave costs nothing !
Was it worth it ?
Yes. Spurs won in Beijing and played some superb football. Perhaps Tottenham Hotspur could learn a few things from Hull City, a club that clearly value their supporters and went to considerable lengths to make those that traveled feel valued.
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