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Chinese Super League 2017

Hard work pays off for Hong Kong’s Jack Sealy in China cauldron with Oscar and Carlos Tevez

Former Hong Kong Football Club, Sun Hei and South China midfielder moved to China in December 2015 and is now plying his trade against the likes of big-money summer signings Oscar and Carlos Tevez

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 6:25pm

Ask the majority of professional players, and they will tell you of their dislike for preseason, with long fitness sessions designed to prepare players for the gruelling season ahead.

But for Hong Kong international Jack Sealy it was time to prove that he deserved a place in Changchun Yatai’s team for a new Chinese Super League season that would offer the potential of coming up against big-money summer signings Oscar and Carlos Tevez to name just two.

And for the former Hong Kong Football Club, Sun Hei and South China midfielder, the hard work paid off as Sealy started Changchun’s opening two games of the 2017 season, having only managed six appearances the previous year following his move north.

“I was new last year and I was trying to get to grips with the standard because it was a jump for me, and also the coaching staff changed half way through the season, and I had a couple of small injuries throughout the year which set me back a little bit,” said Sealy.

“Preseason this year has given me a chance to have some games and given the coach a chance to try me out in a couple of new positions and he is obviously happy with what I am doing. As long as I can keep doing what we wants and listening to his instructions, then hopefully it stays how it is.”

Sealy moved to China in December 2015 just before the end of a rule that meant players from Hong Kong were not counted towards a Super League teams foreign player quote, which proved key ahead of the 2017 season as officials reduced the number to only three of the five permitted in an overall squad of 27 allowed per match.

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“This year for me it is to try to cement a place in the team. Last year I didn’t play too much, but this year I knuckled down in preseason and I am really happy with that. Now I want to play as much as possible, and hopefully we can start getting some good results,” said Sealy.

“Last year we didn’t get a win until the eighth or ninth game of the season, so if we can start winning early doors it will make the season a lot easier as last season was a struggle.”

Sealy was born in London but moved to Hong Kong in 1992 when his dad, well-travelled former striker Tony, signed a short-term contract with Sun Hei in 1992 before being appointed as the coach of Hong Kong Football Club in 1995.

Sealy returned to the United Kingdom to study at university, and after playing at non-league level, played under his dad as a teenager before spells with Sun Hei and South China, who he was playing for when he obtained his Hong Kong passport in 2013 before making his full national team debut against Myanmar that September.

After his move to China, Sealy struggled to hold down a regular first team place as Changchun eventually avoided relegation by three points to stay in the Super League for 2017.

Sealy, though, did not get too distracted by the opponents he might be facing in the new season started to appear in the news, instead focusing on making sure he was in Lee’s plans for the 2017 season opener against Oscar’s Shanghai SIPG.

“I am a bit of a strange one. I never really pay much attention to what is going on in the football world, I get told by my friends and they tell me who is coming and who I might be playing against,” he said.

“Then when it materialises I think it would be quite cool. It is a bit daunting at first, but then when you think about it and you are in the same league, you just have to look at them as equals and do the best you can.

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“You are aware you are going to play against some of the best players in the world, but you try to take that away and play a normal game.”

Sealy had done enough and started in midfield as Changchun took on Gus Poyet’s side, who included Shanghai’s 60 million (HK$496 million) signing from Chelsea.

And things started well as Fan Xiaodong opened the scoring for the visitors only for Shanghai to eventually run out 5-1 winners, with Poyet’s side one of the favourites for the title this season.

“SIPG have got the quality. They have been playing in the Champions League and they have had a really good preseason, so we knew it was going to be a really tough game.

“It was just about trying to suppress them and try to get a result, but as soon as they scored two it was a bit of a battle,” said Sealy.

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Sealy also started the second match of the season against Guangzhou R&F, but after Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo missed a 67th-minute penalty following his reported US$25.18 million preseason move from Watford in the English Premier League, the home side snatched a 1-0 win as their Brazilian forward Junior Urso struck just three minutes later.

“We had two hard away games to start the season. The first game we had a chance at the beginning as we scored early and played well for the first 30 minutes, but we dropped off a bit and they showed their quality,” said Sealy.

“The second game was disappointing as we could have won, we should have at least got something as we had chances and missed a penalty. But that’s football, you make a mistake one end, and they go and score a few minutes later.”

Home games against Shandong Luneng and Liaoning Whowin are next in April after the international break, with Sealy playing for Hong Kong in their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon in Beirut earlier this week.

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Shandong have made a perfect start to the new season with home wins over Tianjin Teda and defending Super League champions Guanzghou Evergrande, while Liaoning have drawn both their openers having finished a place and a point above Changchun last season.

“We have Shandong next so hopefully with the home fans and being in our own city we can get a good result,” added Sealy.

“Home support and home ground will help, but there are no easy games in the Super League, it will be tough, but hopefully we can get some early points to kick off our season.”