New club formed to join HK's top flight
A NEW team are ready to join the Hongkong First Division next season, taking over the Sea Bee registration held by Ernest Borel for the past three years.
They are likely to be called King Network, and will be formed by Simon Wan Chi-lok, a vice-chairman last season with Michelotti.
''We haven't decided on the name for the team yet but most likely we will call the team King Network,'' said Wan, the director of King Network Travel.
The team will have a $4 million budget and Wan has appointed ex-Michelotti coach Wong Yiu-shun to lead the team.
Wong has already signed nine players, including five who were under his wing at Michelotti last season.
The Michelotti five are goalkeeper Chan Hing-wing, Leung Shing-kit, Lee Wai-wor, Nip Chak-hang and Wong Chi-fai, who will also be the team's assistant coach.
They have also signed Borel's Wong Chi-keung, Eastern's teenage reserve goalkeeper Mak Kwok-fai and two trainees of the Hongkong Sports Institute Coca-Cola scholarship scheme - Wong Hiu-kwong and Poon Man-tik.
Happy Valley reserve Leung Kam-fai is also hoping to be allowed to join them.
Wan intends to sign only three foreign players - a central defender, a midfielder and a centre forward.
Their target for the striker's position is South China's Billy Whitehurst but their other two expatriate vacancies are still wide open.
The opening for a new club came when big-spending Borel, formed in 1990 after taking over the Sea Bee registration, cut short their proposed five-year stint in soccer following a fruitless season in which they had invested more than $10 million.
The future of Michelotti is also in doubt, which is one reason Wan decided to leave them to form his own team.
Michelotti owe some of their players almost four months' outstanding wages and the Hongkong FA have got tough with them by banning their three main office bearers - president Chan Mo-wang, chairman Alfred Yuen Kwok-fan and secretary Sek Kam-wah - from ever again holding a position in Hongkong soccer.
But Wan stresses he has nothing to do with the Michelotti management and his vice-chairman's post was an honorary one, bestowed after he offered them a sponsorship sum.
He says Steven Lam, the Borel president, has agreed to release Borel's FA registration and adds: ''We hope to close the deal in a day or two.'' Squad training for the new club will start in two weeks and arrangements are being made for the side to go on a pre-season tour of Vietnam in August.
Meanwhile, Kui Tan, who were relegated to the Second Division, are busy preparing themselves for the new season without knowing what level of soccer they will be playing next season.
They applied for reinstatement in the First Division following Borel's withdrawal and, even if they lose out to Wan's new team, they might be able retain their top flight status if Michelotti go out of the league.
The Hongkong FA's council will decide at next Sunday's annual meeting whether Kui Tan can stay.
The club's chairman Yuen Cheuk-ting is optimistically signing players with a view to playing First Division soccer, with a budget of around $2 million.
Kui Tan have re-signed Chan Kwok-ki, Lo Kwok-wing, Chan Tak-ming and goalkeeper Yam Wai-hung.
and have an option on Chu Chung-kai, even though he has a contract with newly promoted Rangers.
The only foreign player Kui Tan are looking to retain is Darren Bloodworth, but they will be looking for another two overseas players: a central defender and a centre forward.
Yuen said: ''A lot of our players signed for other clubs after we lost our relegation battle but fortunately we managed to hold on to a couple of our old guards.''