Steven Lo fights back tears as he bids farewell to South China
Convenor is lauded by thousands of fans who thank stalwart for his years of dedication as Caroliners down Eastern in play-off final
South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing vowed to come back after watching his charges beat Eastern Salon with an emotional 1-0 win in the season play-off final last night.
Brazilian striker Dhiego Martins made the difference with a spectacular goal midway through the second half, powering home after Andrew Barisic cut the ball back in front of a 4,000-strong crowd.
Many of the spectators came especially to bid farewell to Lo, who is one of the most successful convenors in the club's recent history.
The club convenor for the past eight seasons, Lo waved goodbye to more than 500 die-hard fans at Mong Kok Stadium, who all remained at the venue after the match was over.
They chanted his name and asked Lo to stay with the club.
"Given the right moment and the right time, I will certainly come back, just like in 2006 when I was reappointed the club convenor," said Lo, who, on several occasions, tried to hold back the tears as he raised both hands to wave his thanks to the fans.
"If I come back, it will definitely be with South China.
"And, at this moment, I can only help the new management to ask the players to stay with the club and I will come to watch South China in future."
Lo arrived at South China in 1992 and spent two seasons as their convenor.
When South China suffered the humiliation of relegation in 2006, a special dispensation by the Hong Kong Football Association helped them retain their place in the top flight and Lo was given the task by the South China Athletic Association, parent body of the soccer club, of rebuilding the team.
Under his leadership, South China won four straight league championships - from 2007 to 2010.
They also reached the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2009, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Kuwait Sport Club. But their home match against the visitors from Kuwait attracted a capacity crowd at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
"There is little regret over the past eight years in terms of soccer, as I have also learned many things other than the sport," said Lo.
"The AFC Cup match against Kuwait was one of the highlights, but I also feel a bit sorry that I failed to take the opportunity to push soccer further in Hong Kong.
"The sport faces many difficulties in Hong Kong and we need a concerted effort from all parties involved to work together."
South China will formerly announce the appointment of their new convenor - widely expected to be businessman Wallace Cheung Kwong-yung, who was chairman of Citizen this season - at a press conference tomorrow.
Lo, who decided to quit earlier this month, has kept out of the limelight since his conviction in a Macau court for bribery and money laundering in March.
Lo said last night's victory over Eastern Salon was a perfect ending for him for two reasons.
Firstly, South China qualified for the 2015 AFC Cup as one of the two representatives from Hong Kong. Second, the victory recalls his first match in charge of South China in 1992, although the result then was a 5-0 loss to Eastern.
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak also wanted to see Lo come back: "He has a passion for soccer and this matters most. Many people in soccer have the money on their minds, but they won't be as committed as Lo. In fact, this is sometimes more important than money."