A hefty HK$10 million - much of it to be spent on a legion of talented Portuguese - will be lavished on South China this season to try to restore Hong Kong's most famous club to its glory days.
The oldest club in domestic soccer, South China were demoted to the Second Division after finishing second from bottom last season, and it was only thanks to a special resolution by the Hong Kong Football Association that they were allowed to stay in the top flight.
In revealing his new squad for the coming season, which includes two Portuguese coaches, four Portuguese players and two players from the mainland, Law Kit-shing, the new convener of South China, said he was determined to put the Caroliners back in title contention. 'South China have a long history in Hong Kong soccer and we want to see good results in the new season and that's why we will spend so much money,' said Law, who was also convener of South China from 1991 to 1994.
'The overseas players are good quality and some have represented Portugal at youth level. As they are all from one country, it will be easier for them to blend into one team.'
Law confirmed the HK$10 million season budget, but refused to comment on the budget for the overseas legion. However, it is understood the club paid at least HK$3 million.
Of the four Portuguese players that turned up for the first training session yesterday, defender Andre da Costa, 27, played for the national team at under-17 and -20 levels, while 26-year-old Carlos Oliveira, an attacking midfielder, played for Portugal at under-15 and -16 levels.
'The players are all in their mid-20s and at their peak for professional football,' said Law. 'They also want to perform in Hong Kong, showcasing the bright side of Portuguese football.'
The two other players are striker Marco de Almeida, 27, and defender Hugo Coelho, 25.
'These players are hand-picked by the coach and I am confident they can do well,' said Law.
Head coach Jorge Amaral, who played twice for Portugal and was with leading club FC Porto for four years, was the coach of Second Division side Lousada for the past two years.
'This is my first involvement with Hong Kong soccer, but I am confident I can help South China achieve results,' said Amaral, who will have compatriot Jo Festas as his assistant. 'I have watched some videotapes of South China play last season and they need to improve their tactics.'
Brazilian striker Jose dos Santos is expected to arrive later this week. Better known as Detinho, the 32-year-old played for Portuguese Second Division side Imortal FC last season. 'He was highly recommended by the coach and at the same time we are also looking for another expatriate to fill up the last quota,' said Law.
Six foreign players can be registered for one team, but only four can play at the same time. Six mainland players can be registered but only three are allowed on the pitch.