AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying

‘I feel like I’m going home’ ­– North Korea mission forces Hong Kong’s Jack Sealy to return close to scene of his stay in the wilderness

Hong Kong defender says he feels like his experience living in Jilin, on China’s border with North Korea, has prepared him well for trip to hermit kingdom

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 10:51pm

“Everyone will need to put in 100 per cent and give a performance like we did against China those two times. I don’t see it being too far-fetched to win.” That’s Hong Kong representative team full back Jack Sealy’s view of the do-or-die clash with North Korea on Tuesday.

Sealy has never played in the hermit kingdom but he feels like his experience living in Jilin, on China’s border with North Korea, has prepared him well. “I’ve played close enough. Changchun’s pretty close. I feel like I’m going home a little bit.”

Hong Kong take on North Korea with a place at next year’s AFC Asian Cup in the UAE on the line in a winner takes all game in Pyongyang. Sealy is excited for the visit: “It’ll be interesting to see, but yeah it will be a good experience and hopefully it’ll be a good game.”

Is a Hong Kong win out of the question? “We’ve had a few close games in the past. They are a good team and it’s going to be tough, especially going there but I don’t think it would be out of any sorts to win.”

Sealy has returned to the side after a prolonged period in the wilderness that came about because he was not being selected for Changchun Yatai, the Chinese Super League side where he spent the last two years before moving back to Hong Kong to sign for Tai Po.

Sealy chose to cut short his time in the Chinese Super League in order to get back into the Hong Kong side and he has achieved that since signing with Tai Po. “I’m happy to be back and happy to be playing.

“It was basically just because I wasn’t playing much. I was unlucky with a few different managers and a few different perspectives. I was playing at the beginning of the seasons, both times, and then the managers changed and I wasn’t playing,” he explains.

“At the beginning I was playing in the Hong Kong team and then towards the end they were saying ‘If you’re not playing then we can’t pick you’. So I was thinking as a footballer I’m not gonna just sit there and cash in.”

Rather than sit on the bench Sealy decided that he would not take the easy option of counting his cash in China. “It could easily happen but it is not what I wanted to do, I needed to make a change so I came back.

“I still had three years left on my contract so I could have stayed. I am someone who can’t just train and take the piss ... I have to train and put my all in. If I’m doing that and I’m not getting any reward then it’s frustrating for me. I just wanted to come back and play.”

He has achieved his goal of getting back into the Hong Kong set-up and his reward is a game in North Korea. But he’s not sure where his career will take him next.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much. Like I said, my short-term goal is getting back in the Hong Kong set-up and just playing this game in Korea. We’ll go from there. I signed a short-term contract till the summer so we’ll see what happens and go from there.”

Before the summer, Sealy hopes to secure some silverware for the Hong Kong Premier League side and finish second in the league to runaway leaders Kitchee and dreams of qualifying for one of the continental competitions next season. It’s a little different to his experience north of the border.

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“It’s been good,” he says of his return to Hong Kong. “I’m happy to be back playing again, that was the main thing. But you do notice the level. It’s been a bit disappointing in a way coming from there and then coming here. I didn’t realise it would be such a big gap but you can see why they are getting so much money.”

Playing in China is an experience that Sealy would recommend to his teammates in the Hong Kong changing room if they were to ask.

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“It’s a no-brainer in a way. The league’s better and you get more salary. It’s not a bad place at all. Everyone always has a bad light of China but once you’re there and you get yourself set up in a nice apartment and you’ve got all the amenities you want, you just get by. As soon as you find a Supermarket with things you want, it’s actually easy living. You just have to get your routine in. As long as you’re not trying to compare it with things you’re used to from home and trying to find an exact replica, you’re fine. Once you go and you get your head round it, it’s very liveable.”

Would he go back?

“I don’t see why not. Even the leagues below I would. From going away I’ve kind of got the ambition to go again, to go and play at a higher level and be the best that I can. So yeah. I definitely wouldn’t say no to it at all.”

But first the small matter of winning in Pyongyang on Tuesday night.