The warmth of the old, the thrill of the new; that’s the essence of checking in with a football team after a while of not having caught up with them. Where are they now, how are they doing, and perhaps most importantly…. what are they wearing now? Today sees us returning to the green and white of old friends Tai Po Football Club, who have undergone quite a few changes since we last spoke about them;
A humble club from the eponymous district located in the New Territories of Hong Kong, Tai Po has seen some highs and lows over the past two decades; starting life in the old Third Division for District teams, the Greens would compete in the top flight for a fair number of seasons, racking up wins in the FA Cup (2009), Community Shield (2013), and Sapling Cup (2017) before clinching the highest possible domestic honours with the Hong Kong Premier League Championship of 2018/2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic wrecking the 2019/2020 season specifically and life in Hong Kong and abroad as a whole, the club had to thoroughly rethink its position in the country’s league system. After withdrawing from the top flight as society ground to a halt, the club restarted in the First Division in 2020/2021 where it remains currently, fighting to re-establish a firm financial footing while rebuilding a team that can perhaps challenge for promotion.
Although their days in the Premier League are behind Tai Po (for now!), we are proud to own a few pieces of history in the form of some of the shirts worn during their seasons in the limelight. Dedicated articles for each of these can be found via the links below, each providing a small snapshot of how the club was doing in each given season;
- Tai Po FC 2014/2015 Home Shirt
- Tai Po FC 2017/2018 Home Shirt
- Tai Po FC 2018/2019 Home Shirt
- Tai Po FC 2019/2020 Home Shirt
As was the case with all previous shirts on the site – and so too for this one – we are immensely grateful to our friend Adrian for his help in getting the latest kit imported to Western shores for review!
With Tai Po being a team with a penchant for the wares of European sportswear giants Nike and adidas, Tai Po made a rather uncharacteristic choice for the 2021/2022 season; rather than continuing to wear the Three Stripes, a switch to Macron garb was made – following in the footsteps of other Hong Kong clubs like Southern and Citizen. A closer look is more than warranted as the switch of supplier may prove to be quite the pivot in the club’s sartorial history.
If you feel like this design is somewhat familiar despite having not seen Tai Po this season, you might not necessarily need to be worry about going crazy. Macron have steadily gained ground in teamwear markets the world over, and this particular shirt is one of their most popular catalogue choices for 2021/2022. Going by the name ‘Tureis’ – shared with a star over 60 light-years down the road from Earth – its flowing design based on repeated chevrons was adapted from Stoke City’s 2020/2021 away shirt in navy and yellow.
Having proven either exceptionally popular or perhaps just being especially suitable for reproduction, Tureis is now used widely around the world. Available in 14 different coloursets – from which Tai Po picked the ‘Green/White’ variant – you can spot Tureis shirts being used at every level of the game. At the Africa Cup of Nations, which is currently ongoing at the time of this article being published, the Comoros wear it in green/white as a home shirt and in white/green as an away shirt. The Central African Republic and Tahiti, elsewhere on the international stage, use the blue/white variant at home, while in the National League in England, former Football League team Southend United use the navy/white variant – as does Slovakian side Dunajská Streda when on the road (with yellow/blue used at home). White/black is utilized by our old friends at Edinburgh City in the Scottish League 2, and the list goes on and on – as we found out on Twitter.
At the heart of the design is an embossed texture that covers the entirity of the front of the shirt, consisting of zig-zagging lines that increase and decrease in girth as they snake horizontally across the shirt. We wouldn’t call them hoops per se, but there is a nice optical effect in play that neatly cuts off at every tip of the chevron where its direction changes from left to right – or vice versa.
Because the embossed parts of the shirt are much glossier compared to the more matte finish on the regular fabric, Macron has managed to create a difference in tone without resorting to a different hue of ink on the torso. The end result is understated and best appreciated up close, as it naturally loses some definition when viewed from afar.
While a laudable effort, the decision to go with an embossed graphic here comes with a distinct downside, which we will touch upon a bit further into this article. However, there is good news to share on other fronts; the shirt makes use of Macron’s patented Eco-Softlock fabric, which is 100% recycled and ‘guaranteed’ to dry quickly. It’s good to know that wearing this shirt is likely the least environmentally-destructive thing you’ll do all day.
The zigzag we saw on the front of the torso is repeated on a much smaller scale on the sleeves, where the change in girth for the lines – be that an increase or decrease – is much more pronounced so as to still fit within a much tighter space without losing its effect. Here, rather than opt for embossing the design, Macron makes use of sublimation across two distinct colours to ensure that the shirt does not end up looking like a rather monotonous all-green affair from afar. Instead, the limited amount of white brought in across the sleeves does a good job at making the entire shirt just that bit more visible.
What really should have been sublimated, but wasn’t, is the Macron Hero/Javelin logo. A little cheering figure to some, the tip of a spear to others, and formerly a toilet bowl, the brand’s logomark is stickered onto both sleeves. This invites damage and outright destruction when being washed, but then perhaps representation wasn’t important for Macron at all here. After all, the logo is not particularly noticable against the white lines that form its backdrop. Having outright left the sitckers off might have been the most elegant solution for all parties involved here.
In the absence of a league patch – the Hong Kong First Division doesn’t employ one – the right sleeve remains devoid of detail beyond the base design. The left sleeve, however, features a familiar name; World Soccer, the go-to store for everything and anything football in Hong Kong, has had this exact sticker (completely unchanged in both material and design) on every single shirt we own from the country’s domestic leagues. Talk about being ever-present, huh? The company maintains a Facebook page should you wish to peruse some of the products they supply up and down the football pyramid in Hong Kong.
Another familiar sight awaits us on the centre of the chest; Wofoo Social Enterprises, the social services arm of the Wofoo plastics empire (ask them about their colloidal particles!) that we previously saw as a sleeve sponsor on the 2014/2015 Tai Po home shirt. Indeed, with the club now playing below the top flight and being in need of support more than ever, Dr Joseph Lee’s community-focused business has once again lent assistance. To help our English-speaking audiences make sense of the wordmark, the red characters read out ‘Wofoo’ while the six green characters translate to ‘Social Enterprises’ ensuring that both of Hong Kong’s official languages are represented here.
Now, if you would recall our earlier words about the shirt making use of an embossed pattern, this is our first glimpse at the downside of Macron opting for this style of manufacturing; while subtle and perhaps barely perceivable unless pointed out, the stickers used for the sponsor are stamped over the embossed details, providing a measure of elevation. Now, stickers are already vulnerable as is so having them laid across ribbed fabric is never a good idea – they certainly do not benefit from it. We won’t ever be wearing or washing this shirt (for reasons that will become apparent later) so the point of durability is somewhat moot, but if you were to own and use this shirt yourself, you would do well to take proper care of it when doing the laundry.
While the shirt is mostly based on the design worn by Stoke City just a season ago, a major change from that original inspiration can be spotted around the neck; a new, custom design of collar has been brought in, officially a rib-knit V-neck with a triangular mesh inset. It’s admittedly pretty standard and unspectacular fare, but the dual white lines that wrap around the neckline do make for a smart, classic look. Whether that’s a good fit for a shirt that’s otherwise rather modern with the whole zigzag-pattern thing going on is up for debate.
What’s not up for debate, however, is the lovely emblem that Tai Po use for a crest; the classic white and green circular design featuring a ball tossed about by waves with a traditional Junk that one may spot bobbing about the Tai Po Hoi – an endearing crest that we hope to see in use for many more years to come.
Shame about it being stickered though.
On our other four Tai Po shirts, three of them have the crest applied as a nice (durable) patch, while on the 2014/2015 shirt adidas went down the stickering route. A shame to see such regression come in with the change of teamwear brand, although we may hold out hope that a return to form might materialize for 2022/2023.
A lovely surprise awaits us at the back; squad number ten with a signature, as well as a secondary sponsor and a neat little detail on the nape of the neck. Surely you can spot what it represents, even from a distance?
Indeed, it’s the Junk we’ve seen on the crest so many times – now given pride of place by its lonesome self. Sat below the collar and above a white mesh insert, it is – like the crest and the sponsors – stickered, but spotting it puts us in an apologetic mood. Sublimating it would have been an unreasonable expectation given the number of replica shirts the club can expect to shift, and embroidery would not have worked well given the way this part of the shirt is structured. As such, stickering is the best we can get, and we are thankful to see it. To think how eight relatively simple shapes can combine to form such an instantly recognizable design.
The sponsor found below the numbering, meanwhile, belongs to another old friend of the club; the Tai Po Sports Association, who have a lovely white, green, and black logo that handily incorporates the district’s initials in an attractive, modern font. Serving under the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the TPSA organises activities across a range of sports for the citizens of Tai Po, and provisions and maintains facilities and equipment for that very purpose.
While absent from the shirts worn in recent years (none of the kits we covered featured an appearance from the Association), the TPSA did sponsor the club at a few points in the past and their reappearance this year is another encouraging sign of the club finding traction with local services and communities. Being a sponsor with regional ties only adds sentimental value to its placement here, while its logo adds more flair to the shirt in keeping with the traditional green and white.
A slightly eccentric font is used for the squad numbers this year, and while it is nowhere near as fancy as what we saw during the title-winning campaign, it serves its purpose quite well with miniature versions of the club’s crest sat at the bottom of each digit. Interestingly enough, the graphics feel a lot thinner than the plain white parts of the numbers. Additionally, only the bottom tenths of each have dimples aligning with the fabric’s ventilation holes.
Meanwhile, the signature clearly reads #10, which belongs to one Christian Kwesi Annan. Born in Accra, the capital of Ghana, on the third of May 1978, the striker arrived in Hong Kong in 2005 when Eastern offered him a chance to ply his trade abroad. After a single prolific season in the First Division with 14 goals scored in just 11 fixtures – including a hattrick against Tai Po – Christian would don the green shirt for the first time in 2006 as Tai Po made the step up to the top flight and signed the striker – marking the debut at the highest level of both the player and the club.
Seven seasons Annan would spend in the New Territories before his consistently strong performances convinced Kitchee to contract him. He would only ever be a regular starter in his first season at Mong Kok Stadium – coinciding with his debut for the National Team having gained citizenship in the meantime – with his subsequent two seasons seeing him appear in fewer than ten matches each. By 2016 Annan made the move to Hong Kong Pegasus for a single season. He returned for a few more Kitchee cameos in 2017/2018, played in most of Hoi King’s Premier League matches when they found themselves in the top flight in 2018/2019, moving on to Rangers the season after.
In 2020/2021, Annan – who had turned 42 in pre-season – finally made the step back down to the First Division, a league he hadn’t played in since 2006, where he proved that age still hadn’t gotten the best of him. Yuen Long had secured his signature and were duly rewarded with 8 goals in 13 matches. This is also where the paths of Annan and Tai Po reconverged, seeing as the latter had just made the step back down to the second tier. With both player and team fondly remembering the many good years they had together, a deal was struck ahead of 2021/2022 to bring Christian Annan home. With that home being the Kwong Fuk Football Pitch for the time being as Tai Po have taken up a slightly more humble abode while they contest the second tier of the Hong Kong football pyramid.
Regardless of venue and division, the men in green march on still – and that’s quite the achievement considering the damage the COVID-19 pandemic wrought upon football in Hong Kong (not to mention elsewhere). We’d encourage you to ask our old pals at R&F HK, but they’ve been shut down by their owners in China – and here we were dying for another (inter)stellar kit from them.
The Premier League is now contested by only eight teams – one being an FA-run U23 team in the same somewhat embarrassing vein as the Young Lions in Singapore – and many of the big names in Hong Kong football are either gone or languishing further down the pyramid still. In that light, the men and women behind Tai Po can only be commended for not only keeping the club alive, but putting together a team that is taking the fight to the top of the table. At the time of writing, Tai Po are in first place in the First Division with 28 points from 13 matches played – just one point ahead of Sha Tin who follow in 2nd place. If the finances are right and the HKFA is keen, perhaps there may be more top flight football on the horizon still. We look forward to finding out – and seeing whether marathon man Christian Annan will be along for the ride should Tai Po clinch the title.
That’s just about all you need from us for now, but as always, we would like to remind you that Club 25 is a weekly publication – expect a brand new article from us next week, so keep checking back for when we have a new shirt going live. Additionally, keep up to date with us on our Twitter page and flick through the site’s Shirt Archive to see what shirts we’ve covered in the past.
Love these detailed updates and write ups about Tai Po FC. Keep it up and all the best.