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Eastern’s Manuel Bleda: “We put up a good fight against Japan and China’s best teams”

Bleda in action for Eastern - Credit: Eastern / Bleda

Manuel Bleda is one of the leading hotshots in Hong Kong football and his many goals have kept Eastern in the title hunt for the Hong Kong Premier league. The affable and grounded Spaniard has made Hong Kong his home for the past few years and is a fan favourite for his hard work and dedication to his craft. In an exclusive interview, Bleda took the time to share his views on the state of the game in Hong Kong and also to reminisce about Eastern’s run in the Asian Champions League a few seasons ago.

WEF: How can the level of football in Hong Kong improve?

Manuel Bleda: “I think the level of Hong Kong football is improving and it is getting better and better and better. What needs to change? Some habits need to change, for example, some training styles. For example, some coaches can go to other countries and check the training methods and see how it can help Hong Kong football but I think football in Hong Kong is improving all the time and if it continues like this then it will be better after three to four years and will be stronger.”

WEF: How did you think Eastern did in the Asian Champions league group stages a few seasons ago?

Manuel Bleda: “When we played in the group stages in the Asian Champion League, we played the best team in Japan and the best team in China and one of the three best teams in South Korea and we put up a good fight against all of them. It was only against Evergrande that we conceded early and also lost two players very early and when you play against the best team in China with nine players then it was really hard for us. You could see the difference when we played against Kawasaki here and I believe in Hong Kong, we could fight hard against everyone. This is crucial as if you fight hard, then it does not matter if you win or lose as long as Hong Kong fans feel happy. “

WEF : What was the atmosphere like for Eastern when you played  Guangzhou Evergrande away?

Manuel Bleda: “The atmosphere, for the team against Evergrande, was very angry as we lost two players and were down three to four zero after thirty minutes and then you have to play another half. You have to do your best as you do not want to lose more goals. It was exhausting as it was constant running. The stadium was full and at the start of the game, the Guangzhou crowd was quite aggressive but it was a great atmosphere.”

Manuel Bleda in action for Eastern

WEF : Do you think Hong Kong clubs should join the Chinese leagues?

Manuel Bleda: “There are conditions for Hong Kong clubs to join the Chinese leagues but I think this question is more for the president of the Hong Kong football association than me but I think some Hong Kong teams are capable and there are some facilities which are sufficient. I think the first step is to provide more options in order to improve the level of football here. Hong Kong football needs to improve the quality of the football first.”

“The Hong Kong league needs to work hard and it is a hard job to on the same level of Chinese football, especially the Super League. I think League One is ok and I think the Hong Kong Premier league and China League 1 are the same level and maybe Hong Kong football is even better. I think the league here has to work hard to help everyone improve their level further.”T

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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