South China skipper Lee Chi-ho appeared hot favourite for the Footballer of the Year Award yesterday after voting commenced.
A team of 11 players will be selected, with the player winning the most votes crowned Footballer of the Year.
The 30-year-old Lee is one of two South China players nominated by the club for the two central defence positions. The other is Chan Wai-ho.
The selection process comprises votes from four sectors: the sports media (30 per cent); the public (30 per cent); the Hong Kong Football Association judging panel (30 per cent); and the Hong Kong Sports Press Association (10 per cent).
Each First Division club have nominated 11 players, except Sunray Cave Sun Hei, who missed the deadline.
The Footballer of the Year is normally a member of the league champions. Lo Kwan-yee and Roberto Losada won the awards in the previous two seasons, when Kitchee won the title. South China forward Chan Siu-ki grabbed the title in 2010, when the Caroliners were champions.
Lee has been the major force behind South China's success this season, when they snatched the league title back from Kitchee. The Caroliners have also reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will face Kitchee on Sunday.
Lee has not missed a league match this season, meaning he has made the most appearances (25 in all competitions) of all team members. He has also scored two goals. "He has been very consistent this season, and also performed well at the international level," said BC Rangers executive director Philip Lee Fai-lap. "South China have won the league title, two rounds before the end of the season. Lee was a major contributor."
Voting ends on May 9, with the awards presented on May 25. Each of the 11 best players will get HK$5,000 with the Footballer of the Year receiving an additional HK$30,000. There are other award categories, too, including Coach of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Most Favoured Player (winner of the most public votes).
Fans can vote through the HKFA website or obtain a ballot from its office in Ho Man Tin.