Vale: Waikato football loses Arthur Leong, pioneering coach and All White

posted in: All Whites, News, Obituary

Waikato football has lost one of its pioneering giants with the death of Arthur Leong, the former Chatham Cup-winning player-coach of Technical Old Boys (Hamilton) and All White.

Leong was 92, and had possibly been New Zealand’s oldest living All White. He died peacefully after a long illness.

Arthur Leong, New Zealand international.

Blessed with great pace and agility, also powerful in the air despite his relatively small stature, Leong made 15 appearances for New Zealand between 1959 and 1964 — an era when few matches were played — playing as either left back, centre half in a 2-3-5 formation, or wing half.

He became the first player of Chinese ethnicity to represent New Zealand, when he played in a 3-2 win against Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica) on June 6, 1959 (New Zealand’s only international match that year).

On the domestic front, Arthur was Technical Old Boys’ coach, captain and club president, and also served on the Waikato Football Association executive committee in 1959, while an active New Zealand senior player.

And when Tom Finney’s English FA team toured in 1961, it was Leong who had the job of marking the football great, who at the time was England’s record goal-scorer.

And mark him he did, at one stage catching him with his elbow, with Leong later recalling how Finney took exception to that.

“He was not impressed and gave me a real lecture on how that was not the way to play football and that always stuck with me,” Leong said in an interview last year. “But he also gave me his shirt afterwards, so he was a real gentleman.”

The following year, Leong steered Technical Old Boys — which had grown out of former members of Hamilton Technical College, located on what is currently Wintec’s central city campus, to becoming the first provincial club to win the Chatham Cup.

Old Technicals, as they were sometimes called, were thinly resourced, played in home-sewn quartered shirts of claret and blue and never had more than two teams during the club’s entire existence.

But the 1962 final at the Basin Reserve, in which they beat 1961 winners Northern 4-1, is regarded as one of the best finals of all time, after an explosive start in which both teams scored in the opening five minutes.

Technical Old Boys was a predecessor club to Melville United, which will next week contest this year’s Chatham Cup final.

Leong was father to Dennis (deceased), Shelley, Debra, Brett and Craig and is survived by his wife Maureen, though she has also been hospitalised, which means funeral details have yet to be advised.

His granddaughter, Tessa Leong, is a New Zealand Futsal Fern.

In 2022, Friends of Football published a special feature about Leong, including an interview in which he recalled the highlights of his football career.

READ MORE: Special feature — Meet Arthur Leong, believed to be our oldest living New Zealand international >>>>

A rare photograph of Arthur Leong (5) in action.

Arthur William Leong (1931 — 2023)

The following notice appeared in the NZ Herald and the Waikato Times:

Passed away peacefully at Hospice Waikato surrounded by family on Wednesday 30th August 2023, aged 92 years. Loved husband of Maureen for 65 years. Beloved dad of Dennis (dec), Shelley & Gerard, Debra & Bruce, Brett & Heather & Craig & Kim (dec). Dearly loved Goong Goong & Ah Yeah of 14 Grandchildren & Tai Goong to 4 great-grandchildren. A funeral service for Arthur will be held at the Park Chapel, Hamilton Park Cemetery, 395 Morrinsville Road, on Saturday 9th September 2023 at 1.00pm, followed by burial in the Cherry lawn. All correspondence the Leong family C/- PO Box 276, Hamilton 3240.


Through the publication of obituaries, Friends of Football tries to recognise the loss of those who have significantly contributed to our game.

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