Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon urges caution over pursuing Chinese Super League career
Changchun Yatai’s Jack Sealy and Guizhou Zhicheng’s Festus Baise play full 90 minutes last weekend
National team coach Kim Pan-gon has urged caution of a mass exodus of Hong Kong players to the Chinese Super League in pursuit of potentially lucrative contracts without the guarantee of regular first team football following the success and hopefully impact of Jack Sealy and Festus Baise.
Sealy played the full 90 minutes last weekend as Changchun Yatai lost 5-1 to the Oscar-led Shanghai SIPG, with Baise also playing the entire match as 2017 newcomers Guizhou Zhicheng shared a 1-1 draw with Liaoning Whowin in their season opener.
And that type of experience, plus that gained by Eastern players featuring in this year’s AFC Champions League for the first time as well as Kitchee in the continental play-offs, could be key as Hong Kong open their final round qualifying campaign for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup later this month with a tough away trip to Lebanon.
“If players are playing regularly in a higher league we are expecting it will be very helpful to get international experience in terms of competitiveness as they get used to playing in a competitive league,” said Kim.
“But there is some risk of some players playing in the China league and not playing, match fitness is the most important factor. The level of the league is important, but you need to play regularly. Only if that is the case, I would encourage our players to go overseas.”
Sealy only featured in six games for Changchun last season following his switch from South China ahead of the 2016 season, while Baise helped Guizhou earn promotion to the top flight from League One last season.
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Fellow Hong Kong international Jean-Jacques Kilama is also plying his trade in the Super League with Tianjin Quanjian, but did not feature last weekend for Fabio Cannavaro’s side.
Sealy, Baise and Kilama are not considered overseas players by the Super League, with teams only able to now field three foreign players in each match, as they were signed before January 2016 when rules regarding players from Hong Kong, Macau Taiwan were updated.
The changes mean any Hong Kong player signed now would count as one of five overseas players allowed in a Super League squad for the season of 27.
“After the first round we see Jack Sealy and Festus play 90 minutes and Kilama was not playing. I was worried about the schedule as the China league just began ahead of our game and how they can be fit, but this is good news that two players start from the first game and we expect they will play more games so they can be close to match fitness,” added Kim.
“I think the Hong Kong league is also mid-season and I expect Hong Kong league players should be fit at this time, especially Kitchee who played in the Champions League play-off and Eastern now in the Champions League, and this can only help us get more confidence to play stronger opponents.”
Guizhou continue their campaign at home to Beijing Guoan on Saturday, while Changchun face Guangzhou R&F on Sunday.
Also on Saturday, Carlos Tevez’s Shanghai Shenhua entertain Tianjin Quanjian and Hebei CFFC face Chongqing Lifan.