We recently visited Hong Kong and made contact with Mrs Catherina Lau and Mr Lai Huck Son, representatives of the Hong Kong China Gateball Association (HKCGBA). Keith has known Mrs Lau and Mr Lai for many years.
The HKCGBA arranged for Mr Lai to meet us at our hotel on the morning of 6 May. We then proceeded to a sporting complex near Mong Kok where two GB courts were ready for play.
The Morning Games
Within the sporting complex, two courts with shelter sheds (but no clubhouse) were enclosed with a fence. The court surface was grass, but rather long and rough by our standards. A tape was used for the court boundary.
There were about 25 players. Keith played 4 games and in each game Keith was asked to take the first ball of the team. Fortunately, Keith managed Gate 1 every time but then found the long grass a challenge. Whenever Keith’s ball was touched by an opponent ball, rather than making Keith’s ball an out-ball, the opponent player simply sparked Keith’s ball to near the court boundary. We believe that this was probably an oriental sign of politeness to the guest.
We were welcomed warmly by all players. Many were interested to learn about GB in Australia.
We were then taken to a traditional Cantonese Yum Cha lunch. Attending were Mr Lai, Mrs Lau and four other GB players. We attempted to assist with the bill, but were told that we were their guests. On leaving, we presented Mrs Lau and Mr Lai with Australian souvenir gifts and the others with Aussie badges,
The Afternoon Games
In the afternoon, we were taken to an indoor sports centre. On arrival, most of the indoor area was taken up with badminton games. However, an area was set aside for two GB courts and specially designed gates and goalpoles were taped to floor.
The balls used were special balls with a surface of small flexible protrusions. This design allows for the balls to be held under the foot for sparking on a slippery wooden floor. They work well, but it takes some time to become competent because these balls react quite differently to the standard balls. For example, sparking requires additional attention to getting the actual balls touching (not just the little spikes!). Also, as the ball slows after a stroke, it will curve slightly left or right. So a gentle touch is really difficult. Keith had difficulty, but the regular players seemed to cope well.
We were made most welcome and were extended genuine hospitality not only by Mrs Lau and Mr Lai, but also by all the Hong Kong players. We had a most enjoyable day.
Hopefully, Hong Kong will send a team to the 2015 Australian Championship.
Keith and Val McLeod