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Bloated Effort Resulted The Ho Ho Cup

In the very beginning, Mr Gaw Khek Khiam's idea was to initiate a tournament similar to that of the Malaya Cup (now Malaysia Cup) but to be contested by Chinese footballers representing the various Malay States and Singapore in 1925.

Unfortunately, the response to the concept of Semarang-born, Raffles Institution graduated Gaw was lukewarm from those Chinese football teams across the Straits of Johor when Singapore's footballing prowess was way ahead of them in that era.

Chee Lim with Ho Ho Cup (Malayan Saturday Post, 25 May 1929 (NLB NewspaperSG online archive)

Not to be deterred by the lack of enthusiasm from the rest of the Malayan sides and had already spent a princely sum of £200 on a trophy made in England, the proprietor of the Ho Ho Biscuit Factory approached local renowned footballer Yee Cheok Wah and travelled together to Hong Kong where they proposed to organise a match between Chinese footballers representing both Hong Kong and Malaya (included Singapore) on an annual basis.

An agreement was made to stage the first "Chinese Interport Football Competition" match in 1928, it was years later the name of the match changed to "Ho Ho Cup" (HHC) to reflect the backing of confectionery giants.

Led by Yee, a squad of 19 Malayan Chinese players was assembled with the majority of them from Singapore and four players each from Selangor and Perak arrived in Hong Kong for the red-letter date on the 1st of April 1928 at the Hong Kong Football Club Stadium.

Some accounts said the original Ho Ho Cup was lost during WWII (NLB NewspaperSG online archive)

Taking on the Malayan visitors were a "Combined Chinese" team (the Hong Kong representative side which they were known as till the early 1970s) comprised of players mainly from Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation (CAAF) who were aided by two guest players from South China, another Hong Kong club side.

The hosts capitalized on their home ground advantage and claimed the honour as the first winners of the silver trophy with a 3-0 win on a slippery pitch in front of a capacity crowd.

Throughout the years, fans witnessed many outstanding players from both sides of the Causeway featured in the HHC such as the late Lee Kok Seng (Singapore first national team captain after independence) who played for the Malayan Chinese in the 1957 edition, both Kim Siak and Kim Lye of Quah brothers made their appearances in the 1968 match alongside the legendary Chow Chee Keong, the late Malaysian goalkeeper whose begun his illustrious professional career in the then British crown colony after the match.

Lee Kok Seng's introduction at JBS

Despite the separation in 1965, Chinese Singaporean players were still allowed to play under the banner of a joint Malaysia-Singapore Chinese side (馬星隊) until 1969 before fielding a team of their own as "Singapore Chinese" in 1975 after a five-year hiatus during which rules were changed to allow teams to field a limited number of non-Chinese players (a ruling since 1970).

The revamped triangular tournament did not sustain for long with escalating travelling costs and scheduling conflicts in the later years eventually saw the curtains lowered down in 1983 with Malaysian Chinese crowned as the last winners following a 3-1 win over their Singapore counterparts in Kuantan.

In total, 35 matches were played with Hong Kong accounted for 23 victories, Malaya (later Malaysia) claimed 11 wins which included a shared victory with two-time winners Singapore in 1981.

The replacement Ho Ho Cup trophy (NLB archive)

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from NLB online newspapers archives, as credited, should anyone feel it's inappropriate to have any of the media shown, please kindly email me as soon as possible and I will remove them upon request.)

(P.S 2: The content of this blog entry is based on information gathered from 1)香港足球史稿, 2)Kelab Jersi Kita, 3)NewspaperSG, 4)獨立媒體, 5)RSSSF)

(P.S 3: I stand to be corrected should there be any mistake in this entry, please feel free to email me should there be any mistake, thanks)


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