It all began with months of preparations by KK Leung and the under 16 handball team as they progressed to the final of the handball competition here in Hong Kong. Eventually they were chosen to represent Hong Kong in the world famous competition at Terramo in Italy. Anticipation built up in the months before our departure through interviews with the press, presentation ceremonies and so on. Then eventually the 3 day arrived and the team assembled at Chek Lap Kok airport to be seen off by the Principal and lots of anxious parents.
After a 24 hour flight we arrived in Italy. We had made friends along the way among the other passengers and the cabin stafand everyone wished us well. We were met at the airport by special bus and taken from Rome to Terramo through the beautiful Italian countryside.
When we arrived at Terramo we were almost the first team to arrive. We were taken to what was to be our home for the following ten days – a classroom in a local school which had been fitted out with sixteen bunk beds.
Gradually the school and the town filled up with happy young people as the other teams arrived from all over the world. There was a sense of rising excitement and anticipation as everyone was waiting for the competition to start. Also there was a great party atmosphere as young people from many nations got to know each other and started to make friends.
The first matches were something of a shock to our players. The game of handball is played in a different way in Europe to how it is played in Asia. It has much more physical contact, also the players from the European countries are physically much bigger than our boys so our team had a very difficult time. All our team members played to the best of their ability, however, and gained much valuable experience which they were able to bring back to Hong Kong to enrich the game here.
During the games, and in socializing afterwards, the Hong Kong team continued to make many friends. In the evening there were many social events. The most memorable was a parade through the center of the town by all the participating teams. We were given a great reception by the citizens of the town and we all shook hands with about 1000 people that night.
Sadly although the team enjoyed all its matches and played with great sportsmanship it did not progress to the second round. We continued to watch the matches, giving our support to the Taiwan team. We also played some friendly matches – one against the Danish girls team, and playing some friendly matches – one against the Danish girl’s team played in the dark was especially memorable.
We were all very sad when the last day of the competition arrived. We were preparing to leave to watch the grand final when a special message arrived for us. We learned that we were going to be presented with a special award – we did not know what our only information was that we should go by special transport to the presentation ceremony. When we arrived we were presented with the award for the most loved team. It was a special honour and very deeply appreciated by us all.
So, the Coppa Interamnia was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Even though the team did not win the handball competition we did win many hearts and made many friends for Hong Kong and Chinese culture.