The wind of change blowing through local soccer developed into a typhoon last night when the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) confounded all expectations and handed national coach Sebastiao Araujo a 13-month, $3.2 million contract. After 1.5 hours of private discussions at its Fat Kwong Street headquarters, the HKFA council voted 'overwhelmingly and unanimously' to halt decades of footballing decline by retaining the services of Araujo and assistant Lula Paiva. Araujo and Paiva, who arrived in Hong Kong on a three-month contract in December, will be offered coaching positions running from May 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999. Crucially, the HKFA top-brass last night also vowed to accede to Araujo's wishes and re-schedule the league season next year. HKFA chairman Victor Hui Chun-fui said the association would also seek to ensure Araujo was given three days every week to coach the national side. Both Araujo and Paiva will meet HKFA officials today to go over the details of the jobs on offer before formally accepting, but Araujo last night gave every indication he would be returning from Brazil next month. 'I am not too surprised and I half expected it after meeting the chairman yesterday. He asked me what was the earliest date I could return from Brazil if I was offered a job and that gave me a clue,' said Araujo, who flies to Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. 'Yes, I am happy because I would like to stay in Hong Kong,' he added. 'We will need to meet with the FA to find out our exact duties but in principle it sounds good.' Asked if he was satisfied with the proposed rescheduling of the First Division, Araujo replied: 'Yes. It will get us off on the right foot . . . it is a positive step. 'There are lots of other changes we can make in time, but making the season shorter is a good start,' he said. Hui revealed last night that next season would run from late August to early May, shaving more than one month off the current season's length. Clubs will play fixtures on Thursdays and either Saturday or Sunday, depending on where weekend race meetings are scheduled. All matches will be double-headers, with Mondays Tuesdays and Wednesdays tentatively set aside for national team training sessions. Araujo will also be given responsibility for overseeing Hong Kong's youth teams, Hui said. 'We are very happy to announce that the HKFA will offer Sebastiao and Lula 13-month contracts,' Hui said. 'The council and everyone associated with Hong Kong football want them to stay and have been very impressed with the superb work that they have put in during the last three months. 'The council voted overwhelmingly and unanimously to offer them new contracts. They have been a very good influence on Hong Kong football and we are looking forward to working with them,' Hui added. 'We would also like Sebastiao to get involved with our youth teams. Our youth players are the key to Hong Kong's future and by developing players early, standards will improve. 'It is going to be a busy year for Hong Kong football - there are the Under-16 and Under-19 Asian Championships, as well as the Asian Games and Olympic Games qualifiers next season.' By no means the least impressive factor of last night's ground-breaking decision was that the wages of Paiva and Araujo will initially come directly from the pockets of senior Hong Kong officials. 'The vice-presidents, the chairman and the president will pay but we will also look at finding a suitable sponsorship deal in future to offset the costs,' Hui said. The pair were first hired by the HKFA after being recommended by FIFA president Joao Havelange.