Low-key pre-season start for Caroliners' new faces
South China, once the team to beat in domestic competitions, started their pre-season quietly yesterday after ending last term without silverware for the first time under convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing.
Lo, who was absent from yesterday's training session, took charge of the club in 2006, leading them to four league championships in a row until 2010. They also reached the semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation Cup before losing to eventual champions Al Kuwait in 2009.
Coach Liu Chun-fai, who returned to the club to replace Slovak Jan Kocian, said South China had yet to map out a strategy for the new season, but already a couple of new faces were seen yesterday, including Hong Kong international Lee Hong-lim, who joined from TSW Pegasus, Jack Sealy and Luk Chi-ho, both from Sunray Cave Sun Hei, Chan Charm-hei from Sapling and Brian Fok from Rangers.
Their foreign players include Manoel Santos, who will join from Pegasus, while both Joel Padilha and Martins de Souza will stay, but only De Souza was seen at yesterday's practice. Lo said earlier he hoped to sign players from England to strengthen the squad.
Striker Chan Siu-ki, midfielders Li Haiqiang, Leung Chun-pong and Xu Deshuai, goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui and South Korean defender Yeo Jee-hoon, have all left the club.
Captain Chan Wai-ho (pictured) admitted the Caroliners would have to up their game after a disappointing season. 'It's time to bring in new faces after failing to win anything last season,' Chan said. 'South China are a big club and we must improve. We hope the newcomers can give the team extra impetus.'
Meanwhile, Chan Siu-ki is believed to have joined Chinese First Division side Sunray Cave after his contract with South China was terminated for an apparent breach of club rules after a photo of him smoking in public was printed in a newspaper.
The Hong Kong international, who turns 27 this week, is believed to have signed a 11/2-half year contract with the Guangdong-based side. 'The Chinese league has already reached its half-season mark and Sunray Cave have little hope of winning promotion to the Super League,' said a source close to the deal. 'But Chan will be a key player as Sunray Cave chase for a top-flight position next season.'