FORMER national coach Kwok Ka-ming has advised the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) that they should have a re-think on the number of overseas players permitted to sign for First Division sides. It certainly cannot be said that Kwok does not speak from experience. He was the captain of Rangers when the first overseas players - all three of them - landed on these shores in August, 1970. Two of them are happily still among us - Derek Currie and Walter Gerrard who carved out important careers for themselves when their playing days ended. Kwok stayed with the game although he coached only briefly at club level before landing the national job and, more importantly, his original position with the Jubilee Sports Centre and its successor, the Institute of Sport. Kwok saw at first hand just what dedicated overseas professionals could help local clubs achieve as Rangers swept all before them in their glory days of the early 1970s. His exposure to overseas talent and the nurturing of his career - both playing and coaching - abroad with stints at Glasgow Celtic, helped him become one of the game's most influential local figures over the past two decades. So his opinion deserves to be respected. As I have mentioned before, the HKFA has never been able to get it right with foreign professionals. Too many, too few - or, for a drastic spell, none at all. That barren spell when overseas players were banned was the nadir of soccer at a professional level here and the fans voted with their feet. That foreign players have a part to play in local soccer is a simple, unalterable fact. The good ones bring a depth of experience and a different, harder outlook. But Kwok's point about numbers is well made and should be acted upon. Currently clubs can sign eight foreign professionals and play five at any one time. Having had a degree of experience at club managerial level, the abysmal waste of money is one salient point in the 'numbers' game with overseas professionals. They are invariably higher paid than 90 per cent of local players and it makes no fiscal sense to pay out money to have foreign professionals warming the bench. Where Hong Kong clubs have invariably erred down the years is in the quest for quality. They sign players well past their prime or who have made little impact on their own domestic leagues. There is a tired procession through Kai Tak year in and year out of players who, in all fairness, cannot be expected to make a major mark here. And they come in all shapes, sizes, breeds and colours. We're nothing if not cosmopolitan but, generally speaking, it has been Britons who have benefited most - and given the best service - to local soccer over the years. What Kwok suggests - and Hong Kong soccer needs - is a really coherent policy in relation to foreign players viz a viz the emerging local talent. The limit should be set at five - whether they play, sit on the bench or wash the kit. That should have two immediate effects on club policy: a real search for local talent and a concentrated effort to ensure that all foreign players signed are up to scratch. What has always been required in Hong Kong soccer and been achieved by the top teams over the past two decades, is a happy marriage between the best qualities of foreign footballers and the innate talent of Chinese players. It is obvious that Eastern have managed just this and their great run of success in recent seasons equals that of Seiko two decades previously. But it does not happen overnight - and it does not happen without good management, good overseas contacts and reliable coaching. The latter has always been a Hong Kong problem and will remain so as long as the HKFA let any Tom, Dick or Yick-jai run a team without recognised coaching qualifications. To be fair, the HKFA have done much more in recent seasons to ensure that local players at the end of their careers have had the opportunity to go through proper coaching courses abroad. But that, too, has been sporadic rather than planned on a long-term basis. Kwok maintains that there are good local players coming through the Institute of Sport and they are being deprived of their chance at professional level here. As he runs the show, one would feel distinctly uneasy in suggesting he is wrong so, again, it is local club management that is lacking.