If I had ever heard of something called ‘Project Phoenix’, it faded from my mind pretty quickly. One synapse tucked deep inside a dark cranial recess thinks it might have encountered it briefly a few years back, but isn’t sure. It sounds like some worthy do-gooders’ plan to take violent and destructive social deviants off the streets and turn them into honest and useful members of the community. It turns out that it is to some extent the other way round – taking something trivial and harmless and turning it into a burden on us all.
It has come to light following the arrest of a bunch of people with names like Darko and Bamnjo who were running up and down a field kicking a ball. Their alleged crime was taking bribes in exchange for not running and kicking properly. This was to enable mysterious or just merely Mainland figures to place winning bets on the outcome of a soccer match. Apparently, there are some people out there who haven’t heard that professional sport is not only tedious but corrupt, and this is a huge shock to them.
All of which would be an immense yawn were it not for the mutterings about Project Phoenix. Some years ago, it seems the government noticed that the act of running up and down a field kicking a ball was something few citizens thought about, let alone actually did. Rather than accept this as one of those things, and move onto fixing air pollution or poverty or something, the bureaucrats decided to Take Action. They got some helpful consultants to declare in a humungous report that running up and down a field kicking a ball affected the ‘mood’ and ‘productivity’ of a nation, not to mention the ‘cohesiveness of communities’ and ‘prosperity of society’ (that’s just in para 1 of the Executive Summary – before you get to 137 pages of flow charts and vision statements). Without even realizing it, Hong Kong was committed and condemned to ‘football development’.
What this means is that you and I hand over HK$20 million a year (plus more in non-Project Phoenix funds, it seems to say here), and in return… Well, hard to say what we get in return. Something called the Hong Kong Football Association wants to ‘increase the strength’ of running up and down fields kicking balls, and apparently would like HK$100 million a year, which would also help make itself – the Association – into a ‘world-class national sports association’, which is something I’m sure we all agree is really really soooo important. (The quotes and figures here are courtesy of the SCMP article, which I’m assuming is dependable and accurate.) The Association had a British boss called McKie, who didn’t last long, and now has another called Sutcliffe, which all sounds curiously ‘West Kowloon Cultural Hub’ to me.
The HK$20 million Project Phoenix handout isn’t half the story. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department shovel additional ‘subventions’ into this inane sub-culture, and the civil servants at the Home Affairs Bureau have a thing called the Football Task Force to feed and groom and take for walks. And now, the Independent Commission Against Corruption is sparing no expense chaining up and interrogating Darko and Bamnjo into the early hours about the Great Happy Valley vs Tuen Mun Match-Fixing Massacre Scandal Horror of 2014.
All the interfering, busybody, money-frittering bureaucrats had to do, those five or whatever years ago, was look away from the people running up and down a field kicking a ball, and forget they had ever seen anything.
How much is Sutcliff making per year ?
Hemmers not a fan of the football, I see…
“It seems the government noticed that the act of running up and down a field kicking a ball was something few citizens thought about, let alone actually did.”
No – plenty of people DO think about it, and that’s the problem. They avidly watch the English Premier League, La Liga (well, Barcelona and Real), and Serie A, even the Bundesliga nowadays. So the jobsworthys here wonder why this passion for football doesn’t include Hong Kong’s home-grown variety. Unless they can persuade a few aging European superstars to turn out for HK teams (a la Drogba and Anelka in China – though that didn’t last long) instead of unknown Brazilians and Balkan players, however, it will never work.
It’s really a devious plot to declare independence by incremental means. You start off using “national” appended to insignificant, and in any case mostly foreign, objects in footnotes in 8 point type, and before you know it will be taking on capital letters and having its way with “Hong Kong”.
Be careful Hemmers, judging by the hue of some of the imports, “darko’ may be misinterpreted by various handwringers
I can’t quite remember the exact date when local professional football officially died and a fork was stuck in it. I think it was shortly after the time of Dale Tempest, Derek Currie and the Carlsberg Cup. It’s now an irrelevance but when did that ever stop our inept government spending millions on consultants’ reports and proposing a “Project Phoenix”.
Well I suppose at least we are aligned with the rest of the world as they are planning to host the world’s major football showcase, mid-season, in the middle eastern sand sometime in 2022. Presumably, with Phoenix up and running, Hong Kong will give Brazil a good thumping.
100 million bucks gets you a world class asscociation – no players or actual competition – but a world class association.
Sounds just about right for Hong Kong really – all show and no substance. ..and all paid for by the taxpayer.
Once one gets to flow charts, vision statements and words like humongous* one knows that someone somewhere has long since lost the plot. Seems football in HK is as big a waste of our tax money as RTHK and the TDC .
*spell check insists it’s written that way Hemmers, not ‘humungous’
BTW: did anyone else see that briefly-posted SCMP article in the early hours of this morning about some trucks carrying oranges , guns and goodness knows what else which were all in a monster pile-up somewhere in deepest rural China ? The locals were having a field day scavenging all the scattered oranges – and assume the guns. I wish I could retrieve the link because it reminded me of one my favorite jokes which – adapted for that story – goes like this:
Teacher to little Johnny : “What is the meaning of contagious ?”
Johnny : “A very long time on the toilet ”
Teacher : ” !! – Why do you say that ?”
Johnny : ” This morning my Daddy was reading an article in the SCMP about a big crash in China of a truck carrying oranges, and my Daddy said ‘Shit – it will take that driver cunt ages to pick up all those oranges’ ”
On which irrelevant note….
Indeed, would it make any difference to anyone at all if RTHK was abolished ?
Abolish RTHK … no way. I’d certainly miss Big Steve James and his subversive songs that bring such delight by spearing our local leaders.
How about a piece on humungous John Chang, and his idea that under no circumstances should we be allowed to touch the “$2.9 tr” China is salivating about getting in due course?
Agree Gin Soaked Boy… and what was the song that dissed the banks for all the fees they dream up?
When I first arrived in Hong Kong Derek Currie was a local hero, only-slightly-past-their-best top-class players like Gordon McQueen, Charlie George and Tommy Hutchison were joining leading Hong Kong teams, and the stadiums were full. While the decline of playing standards partly explains the decline in popularity of the local game, I suspect the major causes are the availability of far more alternative forms of entertainment than before, and easy access to first-class overseas games via cable TV. The fans are still there, but they will only turn out now for world-class visiting teams or significant international matches. No amount of government money is likely to change this situation.