AFC champions league berth a step closer for Hong Kong teams
Asian Football Confederation grants Kitchee and South China club licence for the region's top-tier competition
Hong Kong's hopes of playing in the Asian Champions League (ACL) moved a step closer after both South China and Kitchee each obtained a club licence for the region's top tier competition.
It is believed the Asian Football Confederation's competition committee has proposed one team from Hong Kong will be eligible for the 2014 ACL qualifying round. South China are preferred over Kitchee because they are the defending champions.
Hong Kong cannot enter the ACL main draw because its league competition has yet to reach the standard set by the regional governing body. Only Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand and Australia have direct entry in the top-tier contest.
The AFC sent a team to Hong Kong in late August to evaluate the application from South China and Kitchee for a club licence. The standard of Hong Kong's league contest was also looked at.
"We received the good news from the Hong Kong Football Association today, which has proved our hard work and effort over the past couple of years of raising the standard of club soccer in Hong Kong," said South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing.
"But whether we can play in the Champions League will not be known until [today] when the AFC executive committee officially announces all the participating teams. If we can join the ACL competition, it will be a major step forward for both the club and Hong Kong soccer."
The AFC is keen to expand the ACL as it plans to remove the existing AFC Cup, the second-tier competition, in the future due to an undesirable attendance record.