Come and play with us: Hong Kong Football Club seek new players ahead of Premier League return
Having provisionally been accepted to join the expanded 11-team top-flight for the coming 2016/17 season, the Happy Valley-based club will hold an open trial on Wednesday night to have a look at potential new recruits
How do you fancy playing in the Hong Kong Premier League as a professional player next season? Well, having provisionally been accepted to join the expanded 11-team top-flight for the coming 2016/17 season, Hong Kong Football Club are looking for players.
And with new rules which change the definition of who will be considered as one of the six overseas players allowed in a squad for the following 2017/18 season, the Happy Valley-based club are on the lookout for Hong Kong passport holders as they seek to build a squad capable of securing consecutive seasons in the top-flight for only the second time in their history.
Hong Kong Football Club again finished runners-up in the second-tier last season, and subject to approval by the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) next week, will join First Division champions Tai Po, Hong Kong Sapling and Chinese Super League side Guanzghou R&F, who are expected to field a development squad, as new additions to the Premier League for the coming season.
Those additions, though, are offset by Dreams Metro Gallery pulling out due to financial problems having finished sixth last season and relegated Wong Tai Sin not seeking dispensation to stay in the top-flight.
“Now a local will be defined not my residency, but by Fifa it will be considered on nationality. Now the HKFA will recognise a player not as a seven-year resident, but by their passport,” said Hong Kong Football Club first team manager Richard Ewart.
“If a player is already registered this rule does not apply, but at the moment I have less than five players who have Hong Kong passports, so in two or three years when the majority of the current players are older and won’t be able to compete, the only players that will be able to play are Hong Kong passport holders.
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“There are good local players out there who would walk into my team, and we are now attractive to them as a Premier League side.”
The club will begin their pre-season campaign with an open trial this Wednesday at Hong Kong Football Club starting at 7pm, and Ewart insists any player will be welcome with open arms.
Ewart is seeking a minimum of six new players to make-up the 25-man squad he sees as being able to compete in the top-flight next season.
Those who make the grade on Wednesday will then be invited to take part in an internal friendly on Friday against current first team players ahead of a planned pre-season which already includes friendlies against 2015/16 champions Eastern as well as Kitchee, South China, Southern and Pegasus – the top five teams from last season’s Premier League – ahead of the start of the new season at the end of August.
“The intention of any recruitment is to bring in better from what you have. My message would be for anyone who either does not have a current contract, or has experience at this level, or the potential to play at this level, then they will be very welcome to meet and discuss their prospects with me,” added Ewart.
“There is no limation on the numbers, the only restriction would be the talent and the ability with the individual.”
The new additions to the league mean Hong Kong Football Club have a realistic chance to avoid the fate of the 2010/11 amateur team, who were relegated after just one season, and match the achievement of the 1979/80 squad, who are the only team in the club’s history to remain in the top-flight for two consecutive seasons.
And like the club’s rugby team, who compete in the top-flight Premiership, all Hong Kong Football Club players will offered professional contacts.
“The goalposts have moved significantly since we were last in the top-flight, the Premier League has become a brand, there is a TV contract, there are medical contracts that you need to have in place, so it is felt that you need to have a minimum budget of HK$1 million just to compete, that is before you start to pay players,” said Hong Kong Football Club soccer section committee member Neil Jensen.
“We have been building a youth pathway for the last seven years and we have sustained over the last two years with the first team, and we feel that if we don’t do this now it will probably never happen. This is our time, this is our opportunity.”