Supporters’ group ESEA Hornets teamed up with the Watford Community Sports and Education Trust to kick off a week of celebrations with East and South East Asian communities for Lunar New Year.
As almost two billion people across the world got ready to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, the Hornets were getting the party started early before the visit of Rotherham in the Sky Bey Championship on Saturday.
Ahead of kick-off, people of all ages from across the East and South East Asian community gathered alongside local schoolteachers, aspiring footballers from the Frank Soo Foundation, club staff and supporters at the Watford Museum, located in a 250-year-old mansion house within walking distance of Vicarage Road.
They had the opportunity to view trophies, and memorabilia dating back to the 19th century, before Sam Ucko from Hornets fan channel WD18 taught the group some of Watford’s most popular matchday songs.
After enjoying some traditional delicacies, the group – many of whom were going to a match for the first time – made their way to Vicarage Road where they saw the home side come from behind to draw 1-1 with Rotherham.
ESEA Hornets are the Fans for Diversity Campaign’s first East and South East Asian supporters’ group, and founder Alan Lau told Sky Sports News the day was a spectacular success.
“It was such a wonderful way to celebrate Lunar New Year,” Lau said.
“From the time spent at the museum, to the walk up to the ground, it all built up to the moment where dozens of us walked into the stadium.
“Looking back on it, with all of those families and all of those new faces in the stands at Vicarage Road – I think everyone had a sense that this was much more than just watching a game of football.
“I’m so proud to be a Watford fan, and it’s amazing how engaged the club is with our community and all the other diverse communities in the local area.”
Watford FC, ESEA Hornets and the Frank Soo Foundation teamed up with the Sky Sports and Sporting Equals partnership last September for a free event at Vicarage Road, aimed at promoting East and South East Asian inclusion in the ‘Beautiful Game’.
Joao Ferreira rescued a point for Watford in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham but the result did little to help their automatic promotion chances.
In addition to Ferreira’s superb equaliser from 20 yards, which cancelled out Shane Ferguson’s first-half opener, Watford clipped the visitors’ woodwork on two occasions on what proved to be a frustrating afternoon for Slaven Bilic and the Vicarage Road crowd.
Watford side sit third in the Sky Bet Championship but are 13 points behind second-placed Sheffield United and an almost unbridgeable 18 from leaders Burnley.
“I’m disappointed with the result, obviously,” Watford boss Bilic said after the game. The plan was to win, no matter how difficult every game is, especially in the Championship.
“We started well, especially on the right side, and I told the players I can’t ask more from them at the moment, but we are missing enough quality in the middle of the park and especially up front.
“The majority of our top players are not on the pitch and we can’t rely on the kids to be consistent week in, week out. So many times today we were one against one in promising situations facing the opponent and then it’s all about quality.
“Up until those top players come back, we have to fight and win as many points as we can.”