Hong Kong Premier League

Eastern slam Hong Kong FA’s special treatment of China-based Premier League club Guangzhou R&F

Rules changed for coming season with the subsidiary of the Chinese Super League side allowed to use foreign players

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 12:17pm

Allowing China-based Hong Kong Premier League club Guangzhou R&F to use foreign players next season in an effort to raise their standards is unfair and threatens to undermine the balance of the league, Eastern executive director Peter Leung Shou-chi said on Tuesday.

R&F, a subsidiary of the Chinese Super League side, played in Hong Kong’s top league last season but the development side struggled and finished second from bottom in the standings, only ahead of amateur side Hong Kong Football Club.

“I cannot understand why they are allowed to field foreign players,” said Leung at Eastern’s first pre-season session at King’s Park.

“The affluent mainland clubs can easily afford top-class foreigners, which no other local clubs can match in terms of financial resource. It will make life very difficult for us.”

Last month, R&F said they would increase their budget to HK$20 million for the coming season and their foreign player Bruninho, who moved to the Guangzhou club last year with a reported transfer fee of 4 million (HK$36 million), will be playing in the Hong Kong Premier League after the Brazilian striker lost his place in the first team.

They have also secured two Eastern players – utility player Roberto Affonso Junior who is now a naturalised player for the Hong Kong team and former footballer of the year, forward Giovane da Silva.

Another naturalised player, Manoel da Silva will also join them along with Marko Perovic, who played for South China last season.

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“They have doubled the monthly salary of Affonso Junior to HK$130,000 to lure him out and there is no way we can stop that,” said Leung.

“They can also use mainland players who have to be categorised as foreign players in the quota for other clubs. With the quality of players at their disposal, they may win the championship.”

Hong Kong Football Association vice chairman Pui Kwan-kay said they hoped the move could bring a strengthened R&F which could help the Premier League.

“You want to have a competitive side in the league or just a team like Football Club,” said Pui. “We try to bring in more quality in order to lift the overall standard of Hong Kong soccer. This should not be considered a bad thing.”

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Meanwhile, Eastern have secured two players including Finland international Aleksandr Kokko as they attempt to replace South China as the top team in Hong Kong.

Striker Kokko, 30, played for Finland against Sweden last year as a second-half substitute.

Another newcomer is attacking midfielder Vitor Saba, who joined from Fortuna Sittard of the Dutch second division.

Leung said their target would be winning all major silverware and reaching the 2018 AFC Champions League group stage.