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Kitchee Retain AFC Cup Spot After FA Cup Win Over KC Southern

Hong Kong FA Cup Final 2019

Kitchee 2

Lucas Da Silva 85

Fernando 90+6

KC Southern FC 0

In a low key end of season finale, Kitchee retained the Hong Kong FA Cup after a 2-0 win over KC Southern. 

The match played out at a sparse Hong Kong stadium was a tight game until the final few minutes with Kitchee scoring two late goals to seal their win. Not only did Kitchee retain their cup title, their win propelled them into the AFC Cup (2020) as the winners of the final were guaranteed a position in Asia’s second tier continental competition. 

Kitchee took the lead, late into the game, after Lucas Da Silva took advantage of the some chaos in the KC Southern penalty area to tap the ball home. With only a few minutes left on the clock and with Southern pushing up the field for an equalizer, Kitchee broke away from a Southern corner and a long ball found Kitchee’s Fernando and the striker’s shot slipped through to give Kitchee the safety and cushion of a second goal and the cup for a third year in a row. 

For Southern, the defeat marked a huge blow for their lofty ambitions especially after spending big in pre-season. The game was another disappointment as the Aberdeen side were in the title race up until the last few weeks and a cup victory would have guaranteed them continental competition. 

Kitchee are FA Cup Winners 2019. Photo: HKFA

The final itself was played out in a near empty Hong Kong stadium and again, except for a small contingent of loyal fans for both teams, the game failed to capture the imagination of the Hong Kong public. All around the world, cup finals are well-attended with carnival like atmosphere’s yet the Hong Kong version has deteriorated in terms of popularity and prestige. One solution would be to open up the HK FA Cup to amateur and semi-professional teams; this move would bring some real ‘magic’ to the cup competition and would align the Hong Kong format to one like those found in England, where the lower league teams join the competition in the much earlier rounds with the larger teams joining in the latter stages.

Kitchee, as FA Cup winners, will now enter the AFC Cup 2020 competition. Some have questioned the value of giving a Hong Kong team a place in the AFC Cup especially as the the winning team only has to play up to three rounds to win the cup. Hong Kong Football fan and Cambridge and Newcastle United supporter, Matt Worth, stressed that having more Hong Kong teams in the AFC enter via the knock-out competitions would raise the standard of the games.

“I think the key question here is whether we think Hong Kong’s FA Cup competition deserves to be honoured with the award of an AFC Cup place. You could certainly argue that the cup lacks depth as a competitive challenge; Kitchee only had to win three games to lift the trophy, although all their opponents were Premier League teams. Then again, Hong Kong has a rich and sometimes colourful tradition of knockout competitions, and I’m happy enough to see that tradition preserved and strengthened with the lure of AFC Cup qualification. Not everyone will agree; it’s a long-standing debate which will run and run unless and until HK gets itself allocated more slots in continental competition.”

The FA Cup final was a close match until the end. Photo: HKFA

Worth also commented that Kitchee, in the end, deserved to win a game where the stakes were so high.

“As for Kitchee, they didn’t have the best of seasons in the league, that’s undeniable. But they did win a finely balanced FA Cup final against Southern, who finished above them in the league. At least the prospect of an AFC Cup place gives the final a competitive edge. It’s Kitchee’s third successive victory in the FA Cup, a trophy they’ve really dominated over the last decade, so they probably deserve the chance to take their knockout skills to the continental stage again.”

League champions, Tai Po, will join the AFC cup again if they fail to qualify for the Asian Champions League via the qualifying rounds. Tai Po have themselves overcome many recent disappointments, especially in domestic cup competitions, to finally  win the premier league. 

Adrian Kwong, a fervent Tai Po fan, said the diverse squad and lack of pressure felt in the team, meant that Tai Po gained the confidence to play stylish attacking football which in turn translated into wins and points.

“I feel this year’s winning mentality cane mostly from the nature of the personnel thus creating that momentum for us to win the title. Tai Po knew that they can win, especially after that Sapling Cup victory seasons ago, and being underdogs for most of the season meant that the players could really focus on enjoying their football first. The more they evidently enjoyed it, the better their game got. I do think, however, that our recent losses against Kitchee in all competitions spurred on the team to be tougher mentally against the ‘Bluewave’, particularly in the Senior Shield final and that fantastic league win at home.”

Tai Po took the major titles at the end of season awards ceremony. Photo: Tai Po

Tai Po’s successful season was rounded off with the team securing many titles at the end of season awards. Notably, Igor Sartori (Tai Po) was named footballer of the year while Lee Chi-Kin was named coach of the year.

Liverpool Legends Triumph in Hong Kong

A bumper crowd of 21,000 at Hong Kong stadium saw the Liverpool Legends side defeat their Borussia Dortmund counterparts 3-2 in sweltering hot conditions. A clinical Robbie Fowler scored the game winning penalty with just over ten minutes of the game left after Salif Diao’s brace, including a goal from the halfway line, had given the ‘Reds’ the lead twice. Dortmund fans were hugely outnumbered though continued to chant and sing throughout the game.

Liverpool fan, Kendall Ma, was excited to have the Liverpool legends in Hong Kong:

“For me, it was good as I have never been to Anfield so this is the closest I will get to the Liverpool players and it is good to the players face to face.”

All photos from Ryan Kam, Dennis Lo, Ken Wu

Ma also went onto stress that the UEFA champions league win made the win even more special.

“The game was a lot more special because the UEFA Champions league win was pretty recent and it means a lot as it was almost 15 years since the last win.”

Offside.hk Celebrate Their Fifth Anniversary

Offside.hk are now five years old. Photo: Offside.hk

Offside.hk, an English language media platform, which covers Hong Kong football, have celebrated their fifth anniversary. Adrian Kwong, an editor at Offside gave his opinion on its significance in the Hong Kong sporting media landscape.

“The simple answer would be, Hong Kong football needs exposure, in more ways than one; exposure to better opportunities for players to grow, exposure for clubs to gain sponsors and learn better management, but most importantly, for the football pyramid (including the first and second divisions) to gain more attention and attract new fans simply to survive, in the modern era where most prefer higher quality games elsewhere. Offside.hk gives the local game another dimension to reach out into the community that the HKFA and clubs dont currently tap into.”

Matt Worth also stressed the importance of reporting on Hong Kong football for a wider audience and also amongst the football community here.

“I think the most important aspect of Offside is the community dimension, the way it brings people together. Hong Kong’s football community is a small one and in the past it’s been quite a transient one. It’s great to see how Offside has connected people; the site’s fifth birthday party was so well attended by players and others within the game, as well as media people. HK football may never compete with the high-budget media blitz from other leagues, but by building this kind of community, we can create something quite different, with real meaning to local players, fans and writers.”

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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