Published: Tuesday, 03 May 2011 Written by Walter 'WASABI' Marthaler

For the third year in a row the Hong Kong Football Club (their Hockey Section, which this year celebrates their 50th anniversary), invited teams from all over the world to participate in the HONG KONG EASTER SIXES Tournament.  And as the HKFC’s April magazine edition mentions:


“The tournament this year welcomes back a number of teams who have been with us over the last few years, in particular the ever popular suppliers of Swiss chocolate, the Flying Hoppers from Switzerland.”


This year all the Flying Hoppers flew in just in time, on the day before the tournament, with the exception of Patrick Huber, who had already arrived on Wednesday.



WEDNESDAY,  4/4/2012  -   Patrick arrives


I met up with the lone early arriver Patrick at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  Strangely, both Patrick and I (obviously creatures of habit!) – first went to the Cosmo Hotel, only to find that this year’s lodging is at the very nearby Cosmopolitan instead…..


I had collected the famously popular chocolates earlier in the week from Grace, and I now handed these over to Patrick to pass to Roli the following day. Thereafter we strolled over to the HKFC to enjoy a relaxing dinner of curries on the terrace outside the coffee-shop. We chatted quite a bit and then, the night being still young, moved along to the Wan Chai nightlife district.  We consumed some beers and finished off the night in “The Wanch”, where a live band was making a huge sound/noise.


THURSDAY,  5/4/2012   -   Everybody else arrives  /  Welcome Event at the Club


Coen and Stefan were the two early arrivers on this day, and I met up with them in the early afternoon at the hotel, and then we had the obligatory Nasi Gorengs  as a late lunch/afternoon-snack at the Club.   Then we returned in time to meet up with the second set of arrivers, i.e. Roli and Claudio, and also to see Patrick again.  Together we proceeded once again back to the Club for the nicely prepared WELCOME  EVENT, where we were later also joined by the very late arriver Frank, who flew in straight from L.A. !


The tournament organizers (Nick, Owen and Chappie) were on hand to welcome us back. Chappie also introduced us to the 3 extra players  he had promised our under-staffed travel side, i.e. Fabian de Prey (from Belgium) and Jeremy Child and Rowan Lawrence (both from New Zealand).  And what an absolutely fantastic addition to The Flying Hoppers team they became.  Lovely guys all three of them, and extremely talented hockey players to boot! They will be most welcome to play on any future FLYING HOPPERS TOUR if they wish to join !


After the pleasant Welcome Event, we moved on to a place recommended by Coen, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, but luckily we just stumbled upon the “Classified Mozzarella Bar” nearby,  where we enjoyed cheese and drinks.  Fairly heavy rain kept us in the place for a while, but eventually we moved on from the fringe of Wan Chai (where that Classified Mozzarella Bar is located) right to the core of the nightlife action. An “emotionally charged” re-visiting of a place discovered many, many years ago almost brought tears to the eyes of some – but not to Brunos’ – just because he had not been part of the visiting group then….. Of course I am alluding to that rather famous “Joe Bananas”.


After that, I called it a night, but I am fairly certain that some of the others went on to explore the Wan Chai scene more deeply?


FRIDAY, 6/4/2012   -  First day of the EASTER TOURNAMENT


Rather miserable weather, but let’s look on the bright side:  It’s not too warm to play for our side which has not exactly got a young average age, even given those great newly recruited local guys.


Head coach Roli jumped right into action and had everything organized to ensure that The Flying Hoppers were showing up on time for each game.  Newcomer (to Hong Kong) Claudio was in charge of the water supply – well done!


This year the qualifying group games numbered four and we achieved the following results over the course of the day:


Flying Hoppers against ISCI won by 5 : 0

Flying Hoppers against Valley won by 3 : 1

Flying Hoppers against ASI Samurai lost by 1 : 2

Flying Hoppers against Beijing HC won by 4 : 3


Both Jeremy and Rowan had outstanding games and were of tremendous help. Some of their back hand goals were – at least in my personal opinion – purely unbelievable !


Not by coincidence, both Jeremy and Rowan were also playing in three exhibition games as members of the Hong Kong Barbarians against a team of Euro All Stars which featured former and present legendary players like Sander van der Weide, Michael Green, Quirijn Caspers  and Laurence Docherty – the latter two training for being part of the Holland team at the forthcoming London Olympics!


After watching the second of the 3 Exhibition matches of the Euro All Stars versus the HK Barbarians in the evening (format 4 times 10 minutes), we started to feel quite hungry and all together walked over to Times Square – nobody getting lost on the way for once….  Jennifer cleverly spotted the Lei Garden Restaurant which was on Stefan’s wish list of places to visit, and hence we steered right in there.  Coen’s girlfriend Fiona as well as my wife Jennifer  had joined us earlier at the Club, and so we were now nine people in all. It was quite easy to get a nice big round table in that Cantonese Restaurant.  We had plenty of decent food, even – somewhat surprisingly!? –  Peking duck.


A good time was had by all, and by the time we finished the meal it was almost midnight and Jennifer and I excused ourselves and went home.  I assume that all the others went for a few night caps again….


SATURDAY,  7/4/2012   - The Flying Hoppers reach the FINAL of the Easter Tournament !


Our excellent round robin results the previous day led us into another round robin competition on the second day.


Firstly, we had to take on the mighty “Speedy Singhs”.   An action packed encounter saw our side beat the tournament’s favourites, which was considered a shocking surprise by many of those “expert” spectators.  However, based on their performance, I thought that the Hoppers  really deserved to win this game!  The result was a 3 : 2 victory to us.


In a second game, we took on yet again the Beijing HC boys, with whom we had had a fairly rough encounter the previous day.  Another hard fought game saw us achieving another win, yet again with a 3 : 2 score.  In this game, Jumbo had an absolutely great tackle on one of the Beijing attackers.  Truly memorable stuff.


Having won our round robin group, we were seeded in the Semi-Final versus the runner-up team of the other group, i.e. the co-favourites of the tournament, namely the HKFC Captain’s Select.  Those guys were quite confident that they would beat the Hoppers.


However, yet again the combination of youth (Jeremy/Rowan and Claudio) coupled with the experience of age (Coen/Fabian/Jumbo and Stefan) and the “let’s just do it” spirit  prevailed and the Hoppers managed to beat the HKFC side by a 3 : 2 score and hence had achieved the almost “unthinkable”:  We classified for a place in the FINAL !!


A very, very long wait ensued.  We, of course, loaded up once again on Nasi Gorengs. And then we waited and waited to play in the FINAL….


Most of us were somewhat apprehensive going into that FINAL, thinking that perhaps those “Speedy Singhs” (the ones we had “un-speeded” or “de-speeded” in an earlier encounter – not sure which expression is correct, as being Swiss, my English may not be “up to speed”!!) might take severe revenge and give our side a terrible time by beating us very comprehensively.


But, lo and behold, the game turned out to be a high quality one and also a very even one, with play going from end-to-end, with chances created on both sides. The Singhs eventually took the lead after a short corner. However, still in the first half of the game, Fabian delivered a mighty strike and the game was square at 1 : 1.  The whole second half was again most exciting to watch. At a memorable instance, Fabian was hitting a fantastic backhand strike that just rocketed a touch over the bar – riveting stuff!



The crowd loved the high quality game and cheered on the HOPPERS! The normal playing time came to an end and the result was still a 1 : 1 draw, necessitating overtime.


At the very beginning of this overtime endurance test, the Flying Hoppers had a great opportunity to score, but unluckily missed out, and in the ensuing counter attack the  “Golden Goal” was finally scored by the Singhs’ team.


A positively GREAT game had suddenly come to an end. But a very, very long night of celebrating the conclusion of a very nice tournament only just got started.  Firstly, everybody gathered at the HKFC and loads of beers were downed and drinking games held and friendly chats among the many players. Food seemed quite inconsequential and calorie intake was mainly done in liquid amber form. No wonder some of those Manly Shark ladies started to look a bit under the influence of alcohol – and they were not the only ones….. 


A sweetly tipsy English girl  proceeded to show me how / where she was hiding that GOLDEN BUNNY she loved so dearly, obviously holding it real close to her heart!


Eventually midnight was upon us all and the Club needed to put an end to the party at that location. Most of the crowd just took taxis, moving on to the Typhoon Bar in Wan Chai, where the partying continued in earnest.  What a night !!  And what kind of emotional tiredness (PC speak for severe hangovers) to overcome for some/most of us the next day….


SUNDAY,  8/4/2012  -   The day with the ‘official’ FLYING HOPPERS Dinner  / Frank leaves


After nursing emotional tiredness most of the day – at least in my case – we all had agreed to meet up at the Cosmopolitan hotel a bit ahead of 7.00 p.m. in order to proceed to our customary special dinner occasion.


In two taxis we headed east to Sai Wan Ho and a kind of special venue – a pottery place during daytime.  At night, it transforms into a “Private Kitchen” place, serving Shanghainese food. The place is called Gitone and forms part of this years “Restaurants & Drinking Places Guide”.


Eight of us occupied a nice round table and the only other guests were two Chinese couples sitting at small tables, possibly fretting about the fact that  8 outspoken foreigners happened to be at the same boutique type restaurant for Easter Sunday dinner?! An elaborate menu of very nicely presented dishes was served.  Jumbo/Frank, the very last to arrive was also the first one to leave us already, missing out on the dessert and instead heading for the airport.


After a most enjoyable, delicious meal, we decided that a night cap was definitely called for. We took the subway over to TST to visit an old favourite of mine (and one of the very oldest pubs in Hong Kong):  Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.  Here, every evening live traditional  Jazz is being played and the crowd is very casual.


Eventually, we called it a night.  My understanding is that only a small minority went on for some more drinks back to Wan Chai?


MONDAY,  9/4/2012  -   FAREWELL DAY for most


Except for Fiona and Coen (who had another lunch appointment) we had agreed to meet up at the Star Ferry on Kowloon side at 1.30 p.m. in order to proceed for a late lunch once again to that Lung Tang Restaurant in Lei Yue Mung which we visited last year and which serves fresh seafood.  We ordered plenty of dishes and had a good time enjoying the vastly improved weather now - Claudio could finally see sunshine in Hong Kong!  Eventually, in time for the fruit dessert, Fiona and Coen also joined us.


Everybody (except for Fiona and Coen who had changed hotels to the Kowloon side and were staying on) had already checked in their baggage and had their respective boarding pass for the late flights out.


As time was too early for FAREWELL DRINKS at the highest bar in the world, we first headed for a coffee stop at the 1881 venue, which is very touristy but nonetheless interesting.  We made sure, however, to get to the OZONE BAR early enough to still be able to look down onto Hong Kong during daylight and thereafter see the transformation into the different look at night.  Stunning views once again.  A bit cool/cold for the time of the year, but I think that this bar is definitely on the “to do” list for any visiting Hopper in Hong Kong.  Just ask the ones who have now had the experience once or twice.


Eventually, Coen, Fiona and I walked the leavers (Claudio/Patrick/Roli/Stefan) over to the Airport Express Station, bid them farewell and promised to all see each other again at the latest by the time of the London outing later on this year. (Game in London and also watching the Hockey Semi-Finals/Finals at the Olympics). 


TUESDAY,  10/4/2012   -  Farewell Dinner with Fiona and Coen


I took the opportunity to meet up with Fiona and Coen in the evening in their hotel on Kowloon side.  They had been to the Stanley Market earlier that day and Coen,  ahead of their forthcoming visit to Xian, had purchased a Terracotta Warrior!  He obviously wants to “go one better” on Stefan’s purchase of that part of a Thai temple a few years back?! 


Within easy walking distance we reached one of the very long standing establishments frequented by foreigners on Kowloon side, the “Spring Deer” restaurant, which, not prone to understatement, declares on its business card: “Best Peking Food World Famous Peking Duck” !


We ordered a variety of different Peking style dishes, not least of course their aforementioned famous Peking Duck.  I sensed that both Fiona and Coen  liked the down to earth type of restaurant the Spring Deer represents, combined with good food in healthy portion sizes.


After dinner we decided to go for some wine drinking at the nearby “Knutsford Terrace” area, which is a well known evening spot on Kowloon side.  We settled – purely due to immediate availability of a nice table outside – on the “All Night Long” place for the drinking and a long chat, continued from the earlier discussion during dinner, covering a really very wide range of topics, such as divorce/mediation, spread of diseases respectively speed of such spreads/ overpopulation issues / food and water security issues etc. etc. 


Eventually, we had to call it a night, as the very next day Fiona and Coen were flying off to Xian and thereafter to Sanya for some culture and relaxation, obviously.


With Coen and Fiona leaving, the 2012 HONG KONG SIXES had come to an end for me. And what a SUPERB edition the 2012 version has been – an absolutely outstanding achievement on the pitch thanks to that great help kindly extended to the HOPPERS by Fabian, Jeremy and Rowan.  Jeremy also talked to Stefan about a “nice” hockey tournament on Fiji, which planted a kind of seed for a potential future tour to New Zealand and Fiji.  Not exactly close by destinations for a Swiss Travel Team -  but then why stick to the ordinary when you are The Flying Hoppers, I guess ?!


See you all again later on this year in London.   Long live The Flying Hoppers!


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