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Hong Kong: Ahead of Eastern SC’s AFC Champions League debut – the first for a side from Hong Kong – all the headlines have surrounded Chan Yuen-ting, the record-breaking female tactician who coaches the side. However, if we rewind the clock back 35 years there was another figure at the helm who had the media in a frenzy: none other than England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup winning-captain Bobby Moore.

In this exclusive oral history, the-AFC.com looks back at the time when one of the greatest defenders of all times came to Asia to play in a Cup final and take on his first head coach role.

December 1981: Senior Shield Final

PETER WONG (Eastern SC coach 1980 – 1982): In my second season [1981-1982] as head coach, we reached the final of the Senior Shield, one of the biggest cup competitions in Hong Kong, and club owner Peter Lam said he wanted the attendance to be really good – at least a full house. He said to me: ‘I’m going to invite Bobby Moore to play.”

So, in the week leading up to the final, in December 1981, Bobby Moore joined us. We put him in a very nice hotel in Kowloon, a five-star place, swimming pool, gym and sauna – players like Trevor Brooking and Alan Ball would go on to stay there. But, for the final two nights before the match, we stayed outside of the city together in a very secluded hotel in Sai Kung.

The local Hong Kong players were aware of who he was but knew he was older, he was 40-years-old then after all, and we would not rely on him to take us to the next level. We didn’t expect him to play like he did in 1966, I stressed this particularly to the Chinese players.


Peter Wong front row, five from right. Bobby Moore back row, two from left.

TSUI KWOK-ON (Eastern SC captain and midfielder 1980 – 1985):  I was amazed when I was told I was going to play with the 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning captain – anyone would be. Most of the players knew that our boss was trying to advertise the final and get the Hong Kong supporters to come to the ground. We all know he had arrived to play as a guest.

In training, you could see he was old but skilful. His control and passing were of a very high standard, only the speed was lower. He controlled the ball very well and it was hard for him to lose the ball.

PETER WONG: I had my set XI and there was no space for Bobby, but he understood that. He told me before the game: “Just do what you need to do to win the match. Your players earned you the place in the final.”

We went 2-0 up quickly in the first half and added two more shortly after half-time to make it 4-0. By that time Peter Lam said to me: “It’s time to bring on Bobby”. But we still had nearly 40 minutes left and as a humble coach I wanted to play safe so I declined. If you lead by four goals and then lose that lead it would be terrible.

The opponent coach, Ng Wai-man, thought he was the best coach in Hong Kong so I wasn’t going to get carried away, nor exploit Bobby, onr bow to pressure from my owners until I was absolutely sure we wouldn’t lose.

I left it till 15 minutes to the end, and then told Bobby to warm up. He’s a pro so took three minutes at least to warm up and entered the match with 12 minutes to go plus around three minutes of stoppage time.

Of course, for him, it was a piece of cake. His control and passing were on display, even in 12 minutes he showed he could play centre-back as well as Beckenbauer. We knew from training that he could read the game like nobody else. Once he was in the game the fans were entertained and the bosses were happy.

TSUI KWOK-ON: Before the match, Bobby had encouraged us to fight hard and play well and, of course, he was very happy to come on the field in the final. All of the fans clapped and yelled. We were very happy to play with him.

PETER WONG: After that game, Bobby returned to England afterwards, he had family back there and some matters to attend, so he didn’t stay for the remainder of the season.

The next year South China offered me the position of head coach. I was young and was ambitious so wanted to move from a mid-level team to a bigger one like South China with many fans. Eastern’s decision was to replace me as coach with Bobby Moore.

August 1982: Eastern appoint Bobby Moore

PATRICK CHAN (Eastern SC Assistant Team Manager 1982-1983): Bobby Moore joined the team as head coach in August 1982, about two weeks before I did.  He wanted to have a second career in coaching. He had ambitions and wanted to achieve good results in Hong Kong.

I was brought in to work with him as an assistant. He didn’t speak Chinese so I also served as the interpreter. At 26-years-old, I couldn’t believe that I had the chance to work with him. I was surprised and honoured and wanted to learn from him.

My first impression was he was a gentleman. Despite all his achievements, he was so nice. Treated everyone like friends and didn’t keep people at a distance. I had very little experience in managing a professional team, but he treated me like a mate, like a partner.


Patrick Chan second row, third from right. Bobby Moore second row, second from right.

Off the field, the first thing he wanted to do was adapt to the environment and culture, although he didn’t bring his family to Hong Kong. His daughter was studying and had her life in England and his wife was working there too. I think the original plan was him for to stay one year by himself and then bring them over.

Bobby tried to learn Cantonese from me and did pick up some simple phrases but not much more than that as the language is difficult, although his tones were not bad. He liked the local food and I helped him find a house in the Southern side of Hong Kong Island.

In terms of on the field matters, there were quite a lot of good teams in Hong Kong at that time, so it wasn’t surprising that Eastern weren’t number one. In those days, Seiko and Bulova were very strong – at least half of the teams in the league were as strong or stronger than Eastern.

And at Eastern, most of the local players weren’t ready to be trained under a foreign coach.

TSUI KWOK-ON: Bobby was a very good guy, a gentleman, so even as coach it was comfortable to talk to him. He didn’t try to yell at everybody to tell them what he wanted. He would share his experience; explained how he had played in the national team, how to control the ball, and when you need to protect the ball.


Tsui Kwok-on

We had won the Senior Shield the previous season under Peter Wong with a very direct, fast-paced style, but now we changed formation and tactics. Under Bobby, we needed to control the ball first and play step-by-step. Bobby tried to bring his way to the team. He wanted us to play more of a passing game, he could envision the modern possession tactics the game uses now.

However, it’s true, some of the local players couldn’t understood him fluently and they wouldn’t ask him to clarify. They would just copy the foreign players. It’s a pity, the communication wasn’t there at times.

WONG KWOK-WIN (Eastern SC Supporter and Hong Kong football fan since 1972): In the 1982-83 season, when Bobby Moore took charge, Eastern were a mid-level team, there were a lot of other teams like Bulova and Seiko who were the big guns. Hong Kong football had a high standard then, much higher than nowadays.

The way Moore set up his team was totally different to Peter Wong’s. At first, it seemed like he knew the way to use his players in terms of position, their pros and cons, and to get them play more effectively.

As Moore is such a legendary player, I – like many others – had expectations that he would make a miracle in Hong Kong football.

When results started getting bad I didn’t blame him, his coaching method was fine. It was to do with the players he had under him – the quality wasn’t there compared to the other bigger teams. There weren’t enough star players.


Wong Kwok-win

TSUI KWOK-ON: It takes time to change to a new system for the whole team, we couldn’t change fast enough to play the exact way he wanted. We didn’t play well and the results weren’t good. You need time to adapt and perhaps we didn’t have time to change to his instructions and play the exact way he wanted. You can see nowadays every team tries keep possession and play the ball. It was the way Bobby wanted us to play.

January 1983: Scouting trip home

PATRICK CHAN: Moore came from a very high standard of football, so his expectations of the players was at the same level. But the reality was if half of the team couldn’t keep up with him, then they just wouldn’t reach that level. His way was good for the team, but the players were struggling to reach the targets he was setting.

As things weren’t going so well in the league, in early January 1983, Bobby and I took a two-week trip back to England to look for new players. We visited clubs like West Ham, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and more. Bobby planned it all out and we’d take a game each. We were looking for players who had high quality but were available and affordable.

We came back to Hong Kong with, among others, Northern Ireland international Terry Cochrane and Bobby’s World Cup winning team-mate Alan Ball.

TSUI KWOK-ON: It was amazing for Alan Ball to join. He was very small, but very hard-working and he motivated players a lot too. I was impressed with him even more than Bobby Moore. He played a lot with me in the midfield and taught me about switching play. Every time he shouted a lot: “Come on Kwok-on you need to pass, you need to run, go go!”

PATRICK CHAN: Alan Ball’s character and personality was quite different from Bobby. He was more outspoken and made more jokes. Every time he would go out with us he’d try and create a good atmosphere. He would make his team-mates feel comfortable and at ease. Sometimes he would like to play practical jokes and hide people’s things!

March 1983: Moore leaves Eastern

However, despite the boost the new players brought, the results didn’t come. And just two months later Bobby left Eastern for good and went back to England.

WONG KWOK-WING: I wasn’t surprised when he left, it was expected. The bosses at Eastern were focused on results, not popularity. Although he ultimately failed, I still believe that it was a good thing that Bobby Moore came to Eastern, not just for the club but for Hong Kong football as a whole. Bobby Moore brought an English style of play to Hong Kong and, of course, more players knew about Hong Kong as a result and came here to play.

PATRICK CHAN:  Despite some people suggesting Bobby Moore wasn’t successful, he did help change the training attitude and tactics, particularly for the local players, and that could be seen initially in the early part of the season, and also towards the end after he’d left, once the team had more time for his methods to sink in.

TSUI KWOK-ON: It was a pity that he didn’t have enough time for every player to fully understand the system and tactics. If believe if we had one more season together it would have worked.

PATRICK CHAN:

I kept in contact with Bobby for a few years after he left. But in 1987 I went to US to further my studies and with no emails back then we lost contact. When I saw in the newspaper that he had died, I felt very sad. I always wanted to go back to England but by the time I became less busy he had already passed away.

PETER WONG:

I never kept in contact with Bobby after he went back to England. I haven’t kept in contact with many of the former players, as I don’t dwell on the past usually. But when I heard the news about Bobby’s death, it made me think about how he gave me such a great final to be a part of, how I was privileged to have such a magnificent person in my team, and how I wished I’d learnt more from him.

It also made me think about my 39th birthday when he and the Eastern team organised a surprise party for me, although I was coach at South China then.

We were both drunk that night – the last time I’ve ever been drunk. Bobby liked to drink a little bit, too and we let it all hang out. After dinner, we went to a bar called Rick’s Café – like in the movie Casablanca – near his hotel.

At 3am, I walked him back to his hotel and I remember him sitting in the lobby, by the fountain, for a long time before he could get back to the elevator and return to his room. As he did so, I went off to get a taxi home. It was the last time I saw Bobby Moore; we were both walking sideways.

Photos: Eastern Sports Club, Peter Wong, Patrick Chan, Tsui Kwok-on, Hong Kong Football Association 

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