Hong Kong Islanders Capture their First Mekong Cup

By Scott Murray

It's been won by the Thai Stix for four of the last six years; the Kuala Lumpur Sharks and the Singapore Chili Crabs have also etched their name on the trophy, but this year the final of the Mekong Cup, the region's most prestigious ball hockey championship, was fought over by two teams from Hong Kong. And in the end, the Islanders defeated their arch-rivals the Nordiques 4-0 in the 11th annual event, held last weekend on the tennis courts of the Dusit Laguna resort in Phuket.

The defending champion Thai Stix did everything they could to retain the Mekong Cup, but fell a goal short in the semi-finals to the eventual winners. The Stix finished the 6-game round robin with a record of 3-1-2 leaving them tied for second place with the Hong Kong Islanders. These two teams then met in one of the semi-finals. It was a hard fought battle, but fatigue and a depleted line-up caught up with the Stix, and although the team took an early lead, Hong Kong was able to take the win the game 7-6 even though the Stix rallied from a 6-2 deficit and almost tied it in the final minute.

There were a few surprises in the tourney; including the Bangkok Bullies finishing last with a record of 0-6-0 and the upstart Taiwan team (with only 6 players and a goalie) managing to edge out both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for 4th place in the round robin. Taiwan went on to loss to the Hong Kong Nordiques 11-7 in the other semi-final game.

Tournament Organizer and Thai Stix captain John Casella pointed out the event was successful on many fronts. The International Street & Ball Hockey Federation and the Czech Street Hockey Association donated US$300 to replace the hockey nets that were washed away by the tsunami as well as giving a US$500 cash donation to the Amari's Tsunami Relief Fund, he said. Another THB11,500 was raised in T-shirt and beer sales, which went to the Laguna Resort's Tsunami Recovery Fund. And THB28,500 was raised at the auction on Saturday night to go to into a scholarship fund in memory of Vivian Slot, a daughter of a Hong Kong ball hockey players who unfortunately lost her life in the tsunami, while visiting Phuket on holiday last Christmas. Casella also said the Bangkok teams would regroup and make a concerted effort to capture the Canton Cup, held in Hong Kong in October.