Jakarta, Indonesia, August 10, 2018: Laos striker Natphasouk Soukchinda had the distinction of kicking off the 18th Asian Games on Friday afternoon – but Hong Kong claimed all three points with a 3-1 victory. The first action of the 40-sport, 465-event Asian Games saw Laos taking on Hong Kong in men’s football Group A at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium in Bekasi, West Java.
The flag of Laos was the first to emerge from the tunnel, followed by the flag of Hong Kong, China, and the national anthem of Laos was the first to be heard inside an Asian Games competition venue.
Then, with the Group A game kicking off eight days before the opening ceremony on August 18, the Laos No. 9 got the match – and the 18th Asian Games – underway.
The spectators, many of them enthusiastic schoolchildren in large groups, did not have to wait long for the first goal of the Games, which was scored from close range in the 20th minute by Hong Kong’s Cheng Hin Lung.
Leading 2-0 at the break, Hong Kong went on to win 3-1 against the South East Asian minnows in the five-team Group A, which necessitated the early August 10 kick-off in order to complete the preliminary round in time for the Round of 16 schedule.
After the game, Hong Kong head coach Kenneth Kwok Kar-lok was delighted with the result – and also with the organisation of the Asian Games.
“I would like to say wholeheartedly thank you to the organising committee and the hotel,” he said.
“All the hospitality was excellent. We are happy that we went to the hotel and had a very good reception from the hotel.
“Everything was good from the volunteers to the organising committee, so from the Hong Kong side we really appreciate all the help and then the support from the Indonesian side.”
Kwok also praised the Patriot venue, one of four stadiums to be used for the men’s football competition.
“The pitch and also the stadium I think, for us, is a good pitch and then a nice stadium,” he added.
“At the moment at the hotel also we have good accommodation and also good food. I believe the organising committee has done a great job, so the Hong Kong team is more than happy for joining this event.”
Laos head coach Mike Wong said the players were “very happy” to be here at the Asian Games.
“The hotel is good, we cannot complain,” he said. “We have good food and good meeting rooms, and the training ground is really good. So we have good facilities.
“We were worried about the travel distance between the hotel and the training field but, with the police escort, it has been very smooth for the last three days, including today.”
The Patriot Stadium will host Indonesia’s first Group A match on Sunday, against Chinese Taipei, with a 7pm kick-off and a capacity crowd of 30,000 expected.
Also on Friday, the new Athletes’ Village at Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, officially opened. With six towers, the village can accommodate over 14,000 athletes and officials from the 45 National Olympic Committees taking part.
The 18th Asian Games will run from August 18 to September 2 at Jakarta and Palembang, capital of South Sumatra. There will be over 11,000 athletes taking part – an Asian Games record.
Caption: Hong Kong players celebrate a goal against Laos on Friday/Hong Kong Football Team Coach Kwok in post-match press conference after 3:1 victory over Laos