“Hong Kong football is falling behind mainland China” – South China manager Ricardo Rambo
Current South China manager Ricardo Rambo is a name synonymous with Hong Kong football after nearly 18 years of involvement in the local game as both a player and a manager. Through his own experiences, Rambo has seen both the highs and lows and the transition from the old first division to the current format of the Hong Kong Premier League. Rambo also had a brief stint in the Chinese First Division with Guangdong Sunray Cave so has seen the development of the game in China so can candidly chat about the pace of change of the game up north.
Under the guidance of Rambo, South China are presently in a strong position to advance to the final stages of the AFC Cup and will look to challenge for the Premier league title once the season starts.
Hong Kong is now very much home for the Brazilian born Rambo and in an exclusive interview, the South China boss took the time to share his thoughts about the local scene as well as the developments up north in the Chinese Super League.
You have been a player and manager in Hong Kong for many years, what are the major changes you have seen in local football?
Years ago, I think the commitment towards Hong Kong football (from all areas) was much more and even though we have moved onto the Hong Kong Premier League era, we still need more enthusiasm from like the Hong Kong government to help with the development of youth players and it seems the support is much worse than before.
In the past, we (Hong Kong league) always had new players coming (to Hong Kong) and five or six teams who were competitive and now we have two or three teams (who are competitive) and we have to improve in this area and this starts from the youth upwards.
What was your best moment as both a player and manager in Hong Kong?
As a football player, when I played for South China, I felt really happy with the atmosphere at South China and the fans and in my first year, when we won the championship, it was a good memory
As a manager, there were two moments, one was with Tin Siu Wai Sun Pegasus as the group of players was really great and we won a cup and this brought us to the Asian continental competition and the other moment was with Sun Hei, also a Cup win and I got to meet Jackie Chan after the game so it was a great experience!
The Chinese Super League is now the talk of world football. Do you think Hong Kong football is falling behind?
Yes, definitely. We have to be honest I think with the pitches, the environment and condition for every Hong Kong club and the sponsorship and currently, China are doing really well in these respects and we have to catch a little bit of this to make Hong Kong (football) better. We have the Premier League now and also have some good teams to bring to the Asian competitions and if we have the right sponsorship, commitment and professionalism then the gap can be lessened.
Do you think a Hong Kong League Team could ever join the Chinese Leagues and be competitive.
Yes, they can but to be competitive to play against them (China based teams), a big change is needed here in Hong Kong including the mentality of the players but if you compete with them (in the China leagues) then salaries will be better and players will be able to raise their game and it would be a good change for the local Hong Kong players and for the community in Hong Kong to watch Chinese super league players up close.
The amount of money invested in the Chinese Super League is phenomenal and astronomical, do you think this can be sustained in the long-term?
Yes, this is a good question as many people are talking about this but the planning involved made by the Chinese Super League and government is for the long term future and I think it will be sustainable and this means more quality players will come and not just ex-players who just take a pay cheque and leave soon after. All this can make the league more sustainable.
Author: Christopher Lau
Christopher KL Lau was born in England and grew up in both England and Hong Kong, and has a background in media, education and non-profits. He also is a freelance writer / photographer and has written for a number of magazines, websites and newspapers around the world on many subjects ranging from the arts to travel.
Chris is passionate about sports and its place in society and is keen to promote both Hong Kong and Chinese football to a wider audience.