‘We want to be a Hong Kong club’: China’s Guangzhou R&F hope to win over local fans
Team official says they want to help in the development of soccer in the city and eventually provide players for the Hong Kong senior squad
Guangzhou R&F are determined to establish themselves as a genuine “Hong Kong” team rather than merely a feeder side for their Chinese parent club, a leading official said.
Vice-president Hwang Shenghua said he hoped local fans would embrace the China Super League club when they make their debut in the new Hong Kong Premier League season.
Guangzhou R&F will field a mixture of China and Hong Kong players as they become the 11th team in the league after gaining approval from the Hong Kong Football Association in July.
“In a long run, our target is to become a club with roots in Hong Kong and produce players for the Hong Kong national team,” said Hwang Shenghua at a press conference on Sunday.
“In fact, our parent company, R&F Properties, is a listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. We hope the Hong Kong soccer community can accept a club from China so that we can work together for the betterment of the sport for both areas.
“We have all the required infrastructure for a professional club – facilities, coaching and technical support and our involvement in the Hong Kong league will certainly create a win-win situation.”
Guangzhou R&F are playing in the China Super League and are currently sixth out of 16 teams. They also appeared in the 2015 AFC Champions League qualifying play-offs.
Hwang said they would invest in the junior programme of their Hong Kong club and would therefore provide more opportunities for local youngsters.
“We have done a lot of research on Hong Kong soccer and have found there are many young players with good potential. With proper training and competition, they can play in top-tier in Hong Kong and China and that’s why we want to get involved in Hong Kong soccer,” he said.
He said they have a budget of HK$10 million fortheir first season in the local league and would gradually sign more players from Hong Kong.
Their target is to build a roster with an equal balance of Hong Kong and China players while they hope to finish in the top six in their debut season.
“Our long-term plan can help foster exchanges and lift the standard of the game between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and this is well supported by the Chinese Football Association and its Hong Kong counterparts,” he said.
Hwang said he understood there were some objections to their participation in the Hong Kong league but hopefully their long-term plans would help convince critics.
“Fans want to watch good soccer and if we can bring in some good results with our plans, it will help change the situation,” he said.
Guangzhou R&F have secured eight Hong Kong players, headed by Hong Kong international Chuck Yiu-kwok and 2014 Asian Games representative Leung Ka-hai. They have also signed assistant coach Leung Chi-wing from Hong Kong.
Their Chinese recruits include players from their development squad and first-team fringe players such as Yang Ting, Hou Junjie and Min Junlin.
Chuck, who played for Rangers last season, said he was approached by a number of clubs in the close season but opted for Guangzhou.
“This is real professional club set-up and can help boost my career,” he said. “I have trained with them for a month and the quality of training is really impressive. I am confident I can become a better player with the help of my new club.”
The club will be based in Guangzhou with players residing in the southern China city and travelling to Hong Kong for matches. Their home stadium is Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground.