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Chan Yuen Ting resigns as Eastern secure ACL Qualifying Spot + Hong Kong roundup

Photo from HKFA

Eastern secured a vital spot in the Asian Champions league qualifiers after defeating Southern 3-0 in the playoff final, but the win was overshadowed by pioneering manager, Chan Yuen Ting, resignation after the game.

Chan rocketed to global attention after guiding Eastern to the HKPL title last season and in so doing, became the first female manager in the world to lead a professional men’s team to a league title; Chan will take time to complete her AFC pro-licence and will remain at Eastern in a different capacity. Szeto Man-Chiu will now take the reins at Eastern, who despite losing one game in the league all season, did not manage to win a single trophy and were also outclassed in the Asian Champions league group stages.

Tottenham Hotspur Impress in 4-1 over Kitchee 

Free scoring Tottenham Hotspur put on a vintage display as they defeated Kitchee at Hong Kong stadium. Initially resting star names like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Spurs still had the strength in depth as stalwarts Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen took control with the former displaying speed and power throughout his time on the pitch.

Harry Kane was the main attraction at Hong Kong Stadium. Photo: Ryan Kam

Kitchee were persistent and resilient and held a good account for themselves and held out until the 17th minute when Son lashed in a shot to give Spurs the lead. Further goals from Janssen and Kane placed the visitors into a 3-0 lead. Kitchee never gave up and Lucas Da Silva tapped home from close range to pull the game back to 3-1. A goal from Sterling in injury time sealed the game for Spurs. An exciting game with chances for both sides sent the 27,000 strong crowd home in a satisfied mood.

Hugo Lloris of Spurs shared this thoughts after the game:

“We were very respectful towards the whole team (Kitchee) and hopefully we will come back to Asia again in the next few seasons.”

Matthew Lam of Kitchee reflected on the game and how Kitchee held a good account of themselves.

“There were quite a few moments when we (Kitchee) showed we could play. We kept the ball a few times nicely and created some chances and of course in the end, there are a world class side and world class players and the levels is something else and I think we held on and put on a good show for the fans.”

Liverpool FC Confirm Premier League Asia Trophy this Summer in Hong Kong

The eighth edition of the Premier League Asia Trophy (previously Barclays Asia Trophy) will take place at the Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday 19 and Saturday 22 July. The biennial tournament will see the Reds make their second appearance, competing against Premier League club’s Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion. Liverpool FC played in the tournament back in 2007 which saw the team lose out to Portsmouth in a thrilling penalty shoot-out. LFC will be hoping to claim victory this year at the famous Hong Kong Stadium. Ticketing information for fans will be announced in early June. Tickets will be sold per match day (19 July, 22 July) with each ticket allowing access to both matches on that day.

Leicester City Win Soccer Sevens for the 2nd Time

English Premier league side, Leicester City, celebrated another HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens after dominating fellow EPL side Aston Villa 3-0 in the main final. Tournament leading scorer and a name for the future, Josh Eppiah, scored twice while Joshou Gordon also added another. Runners-up in the previous two editions of the Main Tournament, West Ham enjoyed success this time round by lifting the Main Tournament Shield following a 2-0 victory over Italian side, Cagliari, in the final.

Leicester City are Soccer Sevens Champions of the main competition! Photo: Ken Wu.

Tournament debutants Bayer Leverkusen were crowned main Tournament Plate champions as goals from Julijan Popovic and Berkan Arik helped claim a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix in the final. Citi All Stars, meanwhile, retained their Masters Tournament title after Jamie Cureton scored his second goal of the game at death to claim a dramatic 3-2 victory over Wallsend Boys Club in the final.

Tournament debutants playonPROS won the Masters Shield after Emile Heskey scored a sublime free-kick to claim a 3-2 victory over Discovery Bay in the final. PlayonPros featured such names as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mikael Silvestre, David James and Colin Hendry, Regi Blinker, Des Walker, Phil Babb, Paul Dickov, Lee Hendrie and Michael Hughes.

HKFC players, Shane Jeffrey, who has played in the Soccer Sevens for two years in a row shared his views on why the soccer sevens are so popular with both players and fans alike.

“I think the soccer sevens is just a great event all around especially in this part of the world. It allows players an opportunity to express themselves a little more than the normal 11-a-side games in that there is more space and more opportunities with the ball at your feet. It also is an exciting brand of football for fans to enjoy. Although it is exciting and showcases some great skill, it doesn’t resemble the 11-a-side game at all so I think it’s difficult to assess players. It’s a completely different game and although many skills are on display it doesn’t necessarily translate to the normal game.”

Jeffrey also spoke about the opportunity for amateur players having the chance to take on professional players.

“This was my second year competing and it really is a fun weekend regardless of results. We didn’t do as well as we would have liked to but in sevens the mistakes teams make are amplified because of the space available, especially against the pro teams who punish mistakes and turnovers very quickly. The pro players are typically fitter and a step or two quicker than what I am used to. The biggest difference maker is the added quality on the ball which as mentioned makes the crucial difference in games that are only 14 minutes long. Even with this being said it still is very competitive and not out of the question to get a result against the pro teams which makes it interesting for the players and fans.”

Gallery shots below by Ken Wu

Hong Kong Football Forum a Success

The first Hong Kong Football Forum was a resounding success as fans and main players in the Hong Kong football scene discussed the ins and outs of the local game. Speakers included: Mark Sutcliffe (Chief Executive of HKFA), Betty Wong (Manager of HK’s national women’s team), Chan Shuk-chi (head coach of HK’s national women’s team), Wilson Wong (chairman of KMB Yuen Long), Jose Ricardo Rambo (former head coach of South China), Tsang Chiu-tat (head coach of KMB Yuen Long), Chris Annan (professional player at Kitchee and Pegasus), Ngan Lok-fung (professional player at KMB Yuen Long and Kitchee), Keyman Ma (of Keymansoho), Matthew Li (of Upower), The Power of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Moment, Chan Hiu-ming (Grassroots development at Macau FA) and Medard Koya (former professional player and youth coach).

The speakers engaged in a dialogue with these practitioners including distinguished academics, writers, and commentators, incl. Prof. Lui Tai-lok (EdUHK, former member of Hong Kong’s Football Task Force), Prof. Brian Bridges (Lingnan University), Prof. Ma Ngok (CUHK), Prof. Annie Chan Hau-nung (Lingnan University), Prof. Ray Yep (CityU), Dr. Lee Chun-wing, Wong Hoi-wing (writer), Kam Wai-keung (EdUHK), Dr. Lawrence Ho (EdUHK), Tobias Zuser (HKBU and football commentator), Mok Yat-fung (Commercial Press), Season Ho Lok-sea (feminist researcher) and Andy Chiu (EdUHK).

Tobias Zuser shared this views on what were the key outcomes from the one-day forum.

“By bringing practitioners and academics together, I think the main purpose of the forum was to identify synergies between practitioners and academics and in what areas academic research could contribute in a meaningful way to local football development. We had very diverse sessions across history, policy,   gender, identity, and youth development, that revealed a lot of gaps in our knowledge and understanding. I think one of the key outcomes that we found across all these topics is the lack of recognition of football as a sporting culture, as something that has been and should be part of local culture. One organisation alone, such as the Hong Kong Football Association, is very much limited in its capability, if there are no long-term strategies behind. In other words, in order to invest and nurture growth, there also needs to be a long-term commitment for the necessary resources across the entire policy spectrum, paired with the understanding that changes take time.”

Participants at the HK football forum. Photo: Hong Kong Football Forum

Zuser and a few others discussed the most pressing issues about the development of local football. 

“One of the most pressing issues is certainly the lack of infrastructure. Hong Kong has just around 75 11-a-aside football grounds – that is 1 ground for 100,000 people. In comparison, the United Kingdom has 1 ground for every 2,000 people. At the same time, these grounds are not evenly distributed across the territory and accessibility is very limited. For instance, even in Macau sports clubs have priority in booking the grounds, which is not the case in Hong Kong. Most of the professional sports clubs often don’t know where exactly they will have their training the following week.”

“Another pressing issue is the question on how to raise the commercial value of local football. Over the last three years it turned out that a fully professional league cannot really sustain 12 football teams at the moment, because not enough sponsors are interested in investing. At the moment, local clubs even have to pay the TV station to broadcast their games – rather than receiving money by selling the TV rights, as it is the case in most other countries.”

Participants at the HK football forum. Photo: Hong Kong Football Forum

The status of Project Phoenix, the scheme to develop the Hong Kong game at all levels, was also discussed by many of the speakers. 

“Project Phoenix, which was definitely the biggest reform package for the Hong Kong Football Association, has actually ended two years ago, and since then the government continued their support with a new project, which is called “Aiming Higher”. The FA has also secured additional funding from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, so currently they reach subsidies of 100 million Hong Kong dollars a year, which previously has been named as the necessary amount for a sustainable development. So that’s definitely good news. However, the new plan also had to set out several benchmarks in order for the government to evaluate its success rate, and such benchmarking often appears quite arbitrary: For example, the goal for average attendance this season was set out to be 2,000 people per game, but in fact, the attendance actually dropped below 1,000 this season, because of three new clubs that had literally no fan support at all. Nevertheless, the figure for the total attendance has still gone up. At least the biggest milestone of the new project will be reached soon: At the end of the year, the HKFA will open a new training centre in Tseung Kwan O, which would definitely be a big improvement, as it will increase the number of football ground grounds in the city by almost 15% in one go.  It seems any time HK play China that’s when the fans come out… but what are some things that authorities or owners can do to get people to fill seats?”

Participants at the HK football forum. Photo: Hong Kong Football Forum

“I think overall it comes down to the professional organisation of the clubs and their commitment to engage with the community. Visiting a football match needs to become more of an experience that can cater to a diverse audience. At the moment one quarter of the visitors is above 60 and another quarter below 30 – so there are very different needs and expectations. The establishment of professional marketing and PR is definitely a key in this area, as some clubs, such as Kitchee, have successfully proven. As you said, big games like the sell outs against China definitely prove that there still is a huge potential for football in Hong Kong – and let’s not forget, even one league game at Mong Kok Stadium was completely sold-out, which happened for the first time since the FA established the fully professional Premier League three years ago. So there is interest, but the product needs to become more attractive on a weekly basis.”        

Zuser also discussed the new ideas that all participants raised and exchanged at the forum. 

Participants at the HK football forum. Photo: Hong Kong Football Forum

“I think what was very striking in this forum is the greater significance and appreciation of district clubs. Last season, the three district clubs have not just performed well as teams, but also were among the clubs with the best attendances. They also have become crucial for identifying and developing youth players, as they have the necessary academies and infrastructure in place. And they usually do excellent work with their communities. Yuen Long, for instance, had the third best average attendance in the league, which is very impressive, if you consider that they compete against big clubs such as Kitchee, South China, and Eastern. So in the future, I think district teams can actually become a model on how to run local football clubs in a more sustainable fashion.”

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.

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