Alvin Sallay

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am

Your dream, is my dream

You can always count me in, as a team

In red, no regrets

We are the 12th men of the match, we are the best

It's catchy and, no doubt, will soon be popular with South China fans. That's the goal of Caroliners boss Steven Lo Kit-sing, who hopes the club anthem - the chorus which is above - will be an expression of supremacy. The far-thinking and progressive Lo has been the force behind a trio of club anthems, two in Cantonese and one in English - We are the Best. He wants the club to have songs which the fans can sing-a-long to as they watch their heroes pummel the opposition.

Sadly, that was not the case on Thursday, the first day of the Year of the Rabbit, as South China were knocked out of today's final in the Asian Challenge Cup, a tournament held annually to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Neighbours Guangzhou Evergrande, the reigning China First Division champions, squeezed out a 1-0 victory, dashing hopes of a fairytale beginning to the new year as South China look forward with much anticipation to qualifying for the Asian Champions League.

Despite the setback, Lo is unconcerned. He believes South China are the best. The song is one of his marketing tools to promote the ambitious club who want to play with the big boys in Asia, thus opening the doors to more riches and fame.

'When I travelled in Europe and watched teams like Manchester United or Benfica, I realised the fans had a song which they sang at matches. It was inspiring. I want to do the same with my club,' Lo said. So We are the Best was born. It is sung by five players from the club - Chan Siu-ki, Kwok Kin-pong Lee Wai-lim, Hinson Leung Chun-pong and Man Pei-tak. They are seen in a video, which blared on the giant video screen at Hong Kong Stadium during breaks in play on the opening day of the Asian Challenge Cup. The fans listened but none sang along as it is still new. Lo hopes they will soon embrace the song and become 'the 12th man' who will lift the players to greater heights as the lyrics espouse. 'I want the fans to learn the song and, in future, they can all sing together. I want to be like Manchester United,' Lo said.

It is no coincidence Lo has styled South China on one of the world's most recognised sporting brands. Like the song says, and like Manchester United, they play in red. Like Man Utd, they are used to being the best. But Lo wants more.

Lo aspires to turning the local giants into a regional powerhouse, who can hold their own against the best from Japan, South Korea, the Middle East and China. He wants to finish in the top two at the Asian Football Confederation Cup, which begins next month, and qualify for the regional top-tier Champions League. To make that dream happen, he has gone out and bought two players who are costing the club an arm and a leg - former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt and former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman. Lo has splashed out more than HK$40 million to make his dream come true - Butt and Kezman are each believed to be costing him more than HK$300,000 per week. But so far, they haven't lived up to the hype. Since taking the field together, the pair have failed to ignite South China. They have lost to Wo Foo Tai Po in a First Division game as well as the latest setback against Guangzhou.

The fans seem to be giving the newcomers the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are still short of full fitness. Perhaps it takes time to gel with the rest of the team. Perhaps the others need to lift their game to come to terms with Butt and Kezman. But the honeymoon period is drawing rapidly to a close. South China need to start winning and victory today against Ulsan Hyundai would be timely, especially if Butt and Kezman play influential roles.

Win or lose, credit must be given to Lo for his innovation and investment. South China are lucky he has deep pockets, but he is not a brash adventurer tilting vainly at windmills. Lo is an astute businessman and his aim is to build on South China's brand.

Selling shirts is one of the best ways for clubs, be they Manchester United or Barcelona, to reap in the shekels. South China are doing that with replica Butt and Kezman shirts. The numbers 12 and 38 respectively are starting to sell. There was a smattering of fans wearing their heroes' shirts. 'I have ordered 1,000 more shirts to be made and be ready by next month,' Lo reveals.

A song to sing and a shirt to be bought - it seems South China are on to something. Perhaps, the other clubs should follow Lo's lead. Things would really perk up in the local game. Just what the doctor - nay the 'change agent' - ordered.

If people think Lo is foolish to splash out so much money on Butt and Kezman - and don't forget the rest of the squad which includes other foreign players and Chan Siu-ki, Hong Kong's first million-dollar player - they might have to reconsider if South China make it to the Asian Champions League.

Then they will be in line to earn big money from television broadcast rights. The fans will turn up in droves and fill Hong Kong Stadium, sending ticket revenues sky-high. More red shirts will have to be ordered. This is Lo's dream. His dream is Hong Kong's dream. Let's hope South China are truly the best.