Former champions Eastern are making a comeback to the First Division in the coming season, but with little illusion of repeating their glory days of the early 1990s, despite the arrival of top-ranked coach Casemiro Mior.
Mior, who steered South China to three trophies last season, returned to Hong Kong yesterday after he was offered a one-year contract with Eastern.
'I do not want to talk about South China. It's all history,' said the Brazilian, who met Eastern team manager Peter Leung Shou-chi yesterday, immediately after his arrival in Hong Kong. 'All I can say is I have done my best with South China and now I am Eastern's coach. I love football and I love Hong Kong and that's why I am back.'
Despite leading the Caroliners to three titles - league, Senior Shield and FA Cup, Mior still failed to win the heart of South China boss Steven Lo Kit-shing, who did not renew the Brazilian's contract at the end of last season.
Mior admitted it would be very difficult to match his success at South China when he takes over the reins at Eastern.
'We are a comparatively new team and have to start everything from scratch,' said the Brazilian. 'Although I worked with Leung at South China from 1998 to 2002 when we won every domestic title, it would be unrealistic for us to expect to do it this season with a new team.'
Eastern, the league champions from 1992-1995 and Senior Shield champions from 1992-1994, were competing in the Third Division last season after a slide down the divisions that began in 1997.
However, a special resolution from the Hong Kong Football Association, backed by newly elected chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak, offered them the opportunity to compete in top-flight football when the new season kicks off on September 2.
'We think it is important to have 10 teams for the sake of having a strong First Division,' said chairman Leung yesterday.
'Eastern are a traditional force in domestic football and I am sure many fans still remember the days when they enjoyed total dominance in the early 1990s.'
The First Division was left with nine teams following the sudden withdrawal of Guangzhou Pharmaceutical last month and the new chairman was in a hurry to secure another team to fill the gap. 'As far as I know, Eastern are the only side in the lower divisions who wish to take up the offer of playing in the First Division and we are happy to offer them the opportunity,' said the chairman.
Team manager Leung said they were working against time to form a quality team which would be able to challenge for titles.