HKFA kicks off bid to attract more fans
With the 2005/2006 season set to kick off this week, the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) hopes to attract thousands of new enthusiasts to local league matches through its Junior Fan Club.
The student group already boasts 3,000 members. They are entitled to receive free tickets to matches, and discounts for year-long training programmes such as the McDonalds Youth Football Scheme.
With defending champions Sun Hei taking on last season's runners-up Happy Valley in the opening match at the Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday, HKFA officials are encouraging more young people to join the club.
'We want more young fans to attend the local league matches and this club is one way to do it,' said HKFA general-secretary Martin Lam.
The HKFA is also offering schools a free day out at the matches in order to boost attendances, which have been worryingly low for the past several years.
'Schools can write to us and request a batch of free tickets. We would be happy to have them at Mong Kok Stadium, or any other venues we play at, so that they can support the teams,' said Lam.
The league will feature eight teams this year, including newcomers Hong Kong 2008 (HK08) . The side features a group of young players who are being groomed to represent Hong Kong at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
HK08 include several rising stars, such as Kwok Kin-pong (formerly South China), Lee Hang-wui (Citizen), Kwok Wing-lok and Cheng Lai-heng (Kitchee), and Leung Kam-fai (Happy Valley).
'I hope they will attract support, especially among the younger fans,' said Lam.
'Playing in the First Division will give them valuable experience.
'They are still young - most are still under 20. They have a long way to go, but they could spring a few surprises this season.'
As well as playing in the league, the team will represent Hong Kong in the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympics. They will also fly Hong Kong's flag at the East Asian Games in Macau later this year.
'I think the new season will be more competitive than last year,' said Lam. 'The teams have started their training earlier, and played a lot of warm-up matches. I think the spirit and fitness levels will be right there from the beginning.'