Hong Kong footballers' dismay as Chinese Football Association brands them foreigners, ruling out big-money transfers
Rule change means local players are less likely to get lucrative moves to Chinese clubs as they will take up non-homegrown quota
Hong Kong players have reacted with dismay after the Chinese Football Association declared that from now on they would count as 'foreign' players in China's leagues.
On Monday, the Chinese Football Association announced players from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau would no longer be registered as “home players”, starting from January 1.
They would instead take up one of the three foreign-player slots clubs are allowed in the China League - and that makes it far less likely for Hong Kong players to earn lucrative transfers across the border.
"They've killed the opportunity," said South China's Brazilian-born forward Manoel dos Santos Filho.
“The decision is very hard and I don’t know why they changed the rules,” said the player, known as Itaparica and who obtained his Hong Kong passport in November.
“Many players are chasing the money that can be made playing in China, which offers big opportunities and the chance to secure your financial future.
“Before these new rules, you could just play there with a Hong Kong passport, but now it’s all over. The decision has actually killed many players’ opportunity to play in China.”
However, the CFA did include a grace period, saying if the players and their clubs could reach an agreement before January 1 and register with the CFA, they could retain 'home' player status in the new season.
Affluent clubs across the border offer much larger salaries than are available in Hong Kong. Many naturalised Hong Kong players in particular have taken advantage; they were attractive to clubs as it allowed them to sign a talented Brazilian or African who didn't take up a foreign player slot.
Jean Kilama, formerly of Eastern, is said to be earning a monthly salary over HK$240,000 with Tianjin Quanjian next season.
But Itaparica, who started his first practise session with the Hong Kong team yesterday in preparation for the annual Interport Cup against Guangdong later this month, said life had to continue despite the new rules.
The 35-year-old forward was selected in the relatively young team after failing to get into the World Cup qualifying squad for Hong Kong in their two matches against Maldives and China in November.
“I think I can still play soccer at the highest level or I would have quit,” said Itaparica, who scored the only goal as he led Hong Kong against his club South China in the training game.
“The coming two Interport Cup matches will be very important as it will prove I can help Hong Kong.
“Many people say I am too old and do not score goals like before, but they forget I spent most of the last two seasons in midfield and not in my usual position as a second striker.
"I will prove to the coach I can still contribute to the team and play for Hong Kong in the last World Cup qualifying match against Qatar in March.”
Meanwhile, Pegasus parted ways with striker Dane Milovanovic after the Australian was handed a 12-game worldwide ban by the Australian Football Association for an offence committed when playing for South Melbourne last year. The suspension only began on December 12.