Hong Kong players eye bonanza as Chinese Football Association welcomes them back into the fold
Change in registration means no longer having to compete with superstars for foreign quota, which HKFA boss sees as a chance for players to fulfil potential
Aspiring Hong Kong footballers can now look at the flourishing Chinese market as their next stop after mainland authorities reopened the door for them, but naturalised players will not benefit from the new rule change.
Starting from the new season which begins in March, Hong Kong players can be registered as home players if they are recruited by a Chinese Super League club or a League One club. As a result, they do not need to compete for the limited foreign player quota against expensive stars from overseas.
“The Chinese authorities are still working out details of the plan but it’s definitely good news for any Hong Kong player who wishes to play at a higher level,” said Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak. “If they play well in Hong Kong, they can attract interest from across the border to build a stronger career.
“It’s not only a matter of money as we all know the players’ salaries on the mainland are much more attractive but it’s also about fulfilling their talent in a bigger environment.
“We have been fighting for this for a long time through a number of meetings with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and they finally agree to give our players the opportunity.”
Prior to 2015 Hong Kong players were allowed to register as home players when playing in China , while some Chinese clubs also signed players from Taiwan under the same rule. Hong Kong internationals Ng Wai-chiu, Chan Siu-ki and Leung Chun-pong were among those who played in China, while Chen Po-liang of Taiwan, who once played for Pegasus in Hong Kong, still plays for Hangzhou Greentown in the Chinese Super League.
However, the door was shut ahead of the 2016 season and just before the deadline for signing Hong Kong players as domestic a number of Chinese league clubs rushed to secure naturalised Hong Kong representative team members, including Jean Kilama, Jack Sealy, Paulinho, Festus Baise and Itaparica. Sealy, Baise and Kilama are all still playing for clubs in the Chinese Super League.
At last week’s preseason meeting with the clubs, the CFA said it would reintroduce the plan to register Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan players as home players and each team will be allowed to sign one of them. However, the CFA said these players must be permanent residents and Chinese citizens of the two Special Administrative Regions and their first registration with an association must be either Hong Kong or Macau. Players who have previously registered with another national association would not be considered, excluding many Spain, Brazil and African nationals turned Hong Kong naturalised players. The rule change will also not affect goalkeepers as all have to be eligible to play for the Chinese national team.
The CFA also ruled its Super League clubs will have to field the same number of domestic Under-23 players and foreigners from next season, with a maximum quota of three foreign players on the pitch at the same time. The move is to provide more playing opportunities for their upcoming players, the CFA said.