Grand ambitions: South China look for former glories as they spend HK$25 million for new season
Hong Kong giants have put up big money again as they bid for glory at the AFC Cup and at domestic level after last season’s disappointment
Armed with a HK$25 million budget, Hong Kong Premier League side South China will search for Asian club glory next season, making the regional cup competition their top priority.
Club convenor Wallace Cheung Kwong-yung was upbeat that the Caroliners will have the financial resources – their budget is similar from last season – to have a real go of it as they take on rivals Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in the AFC Cup quarterfinals in September.
“The AFC Cup will be our primary target as we are the only Hong Kong team left in the quarter-finals [fellow Hong Kong club Kitchee lost in the previous round] of the regional cup next season,” said Cheung on Monday at the club’s first pre-season training session.
“We lost to the Malaysians at the same stage last year and we are eager to make amends. With the arrival of some new faces and stronger determination from the players, we are confident of reversing the result against the Malaysian side and instil morale into the team so that we can do well in domestic competitions.”
The South China boss said Hong Kong’s traditional powerhouses are aiming for “two or three cups” in the new season after a largely disappointing 2015-16 season which saw them collect only the Community Shield.
Cheung was aware that Hong Kong’s other big clubs were putting big money aside to help them improve their fortunes for the season. Arch rivals Kitchee signed Germany-born Andreas Lam Zhi-gin, formerly from Bundesliga side Hamburg, over the weekend.
Born in Hamburg from a Hong Kong father, midfielder Lam, 25, played for the Bundesliga side from 2011-14 before joining Second Division team SpVgg Greuther Fürth during the last two seasons.
South China, meanwhile, revealed they have sent home Spanish forward Braulio Nobrega after discovering that he had been involved in a sexual assault back home.
Nobrega is a product of the Atlético Madrid youth system and has played 11 La Liga games for the Colchoneros between 2004 and 2006 before being loaned to RCD Mallorca. He was immediately released by the club on Monday night.
The Caroliners have also signed the Leung brothers from fellow Premier League club Pegasus – Kwoon-chung and his younger brother Nok-hang – who are both members of the Hong Kong Under-23 squad.
“I love challenges and am happy to join South China as it is a club with a long and distinguished history in Hong Kong,” said 21-year-old Nok-hang, who can play central defence or rightback.
“I also have options from other clubs but chose South China, who are like Hong Kong’s own Manchester United with many local players dreaming of joining the club. I think the club can help build my career as I can learn from many good players.”
Leung spent two years in the Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicester before returning to Hong Kong in 2013 to join now-defunct Sham Shui Po. The two brothers were selected to represent Hong Kong at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and are considered future Hong Kong international prospects.