Wednesday, 14 September 2016

When will teams learn?

When will teams learn?

Last night I yet again watched a team implode by adopting unfathomable and deplorable tactics. The match in question was the AFC Cup quarter final between South China AA and Johur Dasul Ta’zim (JDT). The visitors came to Hong Kong with a deservedly high reputation. They won the competition in 2015 (beating SCAA 3-1 in Hong Kong at the same stage), won their R16 match this year 7-2 and are Champions of their domestic league. It promised to be a difficult night for the home team. And so it was at first. The Caroliners were forced to defend and JDT outplayed them, particularly in midfield. Their control, passing and pressing was superior and they were clearly the better team. They went ahead early in the first half with a somewhat fortuitous goal (I’m being generous to the SC defence) and it looked for all the world as if they would win the game comfortably. They should have done!

Then in the second half as South China started to show some signs of improvment, JDT seemed to settle for a 1-0 victory and inexplicably started some frustratingly negative tactics. Serious timewasting, feigning injury, falling over for no reason etc became the norm. In my book this behavior is at best unsportsmanlike and at worst cheating. It ruined the game and for JDT was totally counter-productive. I have no doubt that if they had continued to play football and focused on positive play instead of adopting petulant, pathetic histrionics they would have gone on to win.

In the end both poetic and footballing justice was done when South China equalized deep into the game; much to the delight of the crowd who had become increasingly annoyed with the visitors. When away teams adopt these negative tactics it merely winds the home crowd up which in turns spurs on the home team.

The shift in momentum caused by this behaviour must be apparent to the away team coaches and officials and yet it seems that they often instigate, encourage and condone the negative actions of their players. It’s as much their fault, if not more so because they dictate the tempo, rhythm, personnel and tactics.

South China should be out of this tie by now and yet they have hope in the second leg. OK it’s still an uphill battle but JDT, who should have been home and dry, will have some concerns.

When will teams learn to just play positive football instead of messing around?

I think the AFC needs to do something about it too because if things carry on like this fans will lose patience and simply stop watching. This in turn will reduce the impact of sponsors and broadcasters.

It’s not the first time I’ve highlighted these sorts of incidents and I make no apology for doing so again. Our ‘beautiful’ game was pretty ugly at times last night.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO, September 2016   


  1. I hope British Forces can join the Hong Kong Premier League.

    1. Dear James,
      Can you elaborate on your comment please?


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  2. It is very difficult or even impossible to weed out these negative practice as the players will always stay within the confines of the rules. The best deterrent is to raise our team's own level and standard. As long as we are winning, the opposition will never adopt such tactics.

    1. Dear Bob,
      Actually some of the practices I have highlighted are breaking the laws of the game. If you look at Section 12 of the laws 'Fouls and Misconduct' it states that players MUST be cautioned for 'unsporting behaviour'. This includes 'attempts to deceive the referee' e.g. feigning injury or simulation.
      They MUST also be cautioned for 'showing a lack of respect for the game'.
      So perhaps referees need to be stronger and actually start to penalize players. If they have beene cautioned, they will think twice before doing it again or risk being sent off.
      Yes, our teams need to raise their standard, I agree with that but we can't bury our heads in the sand and say there is nothing we can do about it. The laws already clearly set out what is foul play and the appropriate sanctions.
      Thanks for your response to my blog.

    2. Just to add another comment Bob, something else that really annoys me is when a player takes ages to leave the pitch when being substituted. On Tuesday night their number 28 took over 2 minutes to leave the field. He was clearly in breach of the laws and should have been cautioned. Regards Mark

    3. Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your reply.
      This article suggested stopwatch is the solution.
      By the way, it is interesting to note that on average the ball was only in play for around 55 minutes per match. I don't know if it holds true for HK football, but I guess our figure wouldn't be far too different. Anyway, while we think we are watching a match of 90+ minutes, we are in fact spending 35 minutes of the time watching the ball "out of play"! All in all, I would say a stopwatch as the article suggested is a better solution than a yellow card since (1) the spectators would not be "cheated" out of 35 minutes of playing time, (2) all time-wasting tactics would be rendered useless and (3) referees would not need to make any judgement or decision which could result in them being accused of bias. Just a thought to share with you.

  3. Dear Bob,
    Thanks for the link - good article. They use the stopwatch system in Futsal and it works well as it does in other sports such as basketball.
    The AFC is aware of this issue and a few years ago ran a campaign which from memory was trying to get at least 65 minutes worth of play. Even that is acknowledging that the ball will not be in play for 25 minutes! It's quite shocking really and I sympathize with fans that spend good money to watch the ball 'in play'.
    Thanks again for you interest and comment.

  4. Dear Mr. Sutcliffe,

    What is your opinion of the ASEAN Super League? Do you think it will happen?

    If a Hong Kong club applies to join the ASEAN Super League, what will the HKFA do? Will HKFA ban it from taking part in order to protect the HKPL?


    Allan Ng

  5. Dear Allan, you can call me Mark; Mr Sutcliffe sounds very formal.
    The ASEAN Super league has been talked about for some time, years in fact. I know that the League was scheduled to start in 2017 but there still seems to be a lot of uncertainties.
    Hong Kong is part of the East Asian Football Federation not the ASEAN FF so I think it is highly unlikely that we would be asked to participate. Furthermore I don't believe that any of our existing clubs would wish to participate in any case because our top teams may well be disqualified from playing in AFC Regional competitions if they played in a competition organised by a different federation. It's something to consider anyway because at the moment teams from HK qualify for AFC competitions by playing in the HKPL.
    It's not something I worry about at the moment.

  6. Dear Mark,

    1. Eastern Longlions will already contest the ASEAN Basketball league, as ASEAN Super League looks unlikely to attract the clubs it wants, it might come to Hong Kong and Taiwan to get the clubs they need. So it is not impossible.

    2. What do you think of this?



  7. Hi Allan,
    1. OK, let's wait and see if the ASEAN countries invite HK to join the League.
    2. When someone sent me a text about this on Saturday I thought it was an April fool's joke! Then I realised it was October! I know there is a housing shortage in Hong Kong but to me it is inconceivable that after 1 year of operating, the Kitchee Centre will have to move. What a colossal waste of money that would be. Our Board discussed this yesterday and unanimously agreed to back Kitchee in their quest to keep the centre open.
    In any case, it seems from the comments made in the media by those in the know that any plan to move the Kitchee Centre will be a few years away at least because it would not be part of a first phase of development. This would give the Government time to build (and presumably pay for) a replacement.
    As well as a shortage of housing there is also a shortage of pitches and places to play sport. The Government's target is 1 pitch per 100,000 people. This target is not being met at the moment and it is already a very low target. In England there is 1 pitch for every 2,500 people (40 times more).
    In my opinion constructing housing without commensurate provision for recreation is a recipe for disaster.
    Let's hope that common sense prevails and that the Kitchee Centre remains as a focal point for football development. It is a great facility providing a valuable community service.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi Mark

    Apologies for the intrusion.

    Just wondered is you could give me a bit of advice

    I would like to enquire about the possibility of my son representing Hong Kong football.

    He is currently 17 years old and was born in the United Kingdom and holds a UK passport.

    I was born in Hong Kong and my father was born in China. We both have HK ID cards with right of abode.

    Would these be sufficient to make my son eligible to represent Hong Kong football? Would he be able to attain a HK ID card and HKSAR passport with right of abode also?

    We have been told that he has to reside in HK for 7 years to obtain a HK ID card? This would be difficult as he is currently living in the U.K.

    I asked these because I can see under HK immigration rules, he can apply due to myself having a HK ID card with right of abode and that I was born in HK.
    What is the tour updated understanding of this situation please?

    Also does the current rules apply to national youth teams or just senior internationals only?

    I am keen to find out as he has a chance to maybe participate in the U19 AFC tournament next year if a solution can be found.

    Many thanks

  10. Hi Chris,
    Sorry for not responding sooner but I am in the UK on holiday.
    The main test of eligibility to represent a country (for the purposes of this discussion, FIFA recognises Hong Kong as a separate team from China) is a passport. This is not something that has been introduced by the HKFA, rather it is an international requirement (as it is with the Olympics).
    So your son will only be able to represent Hong Kong once he has obtained a Hong Kong passport. I doubt it very much whether he will be able to obtain one in time to play in the U19 tournament next year.
    The second point he will have to consider is whether he is prepared to relinquish his British passport because it is not possible to have 'dual nationality' in Hong Kong. He can't do this until he is 18 and the process can be quite drawn out.
    Ordinarily to be able to apply for a Hong Kong passport (and rescind a British passport) someone would have to have lived in Hong Kong for 7 years and be a permanent resident. Because you were born in Hong Kong and your son's grandfather was from China I think this 7 year requirement might to apply (you would have to check this out with the Immigration Department.
    It is a complicated matter and the key points are that a Hong Kong passport is a must and to get this the British nationality will have to be relinquished.
    I hope that has helped. I am happy to advise more when I am back in Hong Kong.
    Thanks for the interest and good luck.

    1. Hi Mark

      Thanks for your reply.

      In fact I am visiting Hong Kong this week from the UK!

      I went to the immigration office last week to apply for my HK ID and received an instant approval on the day. I did ask about my son but the people there wasn't too sure either.

      I have been doing some research on this subject and the immigration laws suggests my son could be eligible for 'right of abode' in HK due to the fact that I was born in HK.

      If this is so, maybe this could be a pathway to obtain a HK ID card for him and then a passport? Not sure if this is the correct procedure though but I will try to ask again whilst I am still here in HK.

    2. By the way, do you have an update on the HKFA lobbying the immigration department to make player eligibilty easier?

      I read your article from last year and wondered if there hase been any developments?


  11. Hi Chris,
    We weren't lobbying the Immigration Department on eligibility because that is not their responsibility. That is FIFA's responsibility and our discussions with them has concluded that there is no compromise. The only proof of nationality they will accept is a valid passport. So that's why a Hong Kong ID, even a permanent ID is not enough.
    We often enter into discussions with the Immigration Department about speeding up the process of issuing a HK passport. They are often quite helpful and you will have seen that the number of 'naturalised' players has increased significantly recently.
    I believe your son might be eligible for a HK passport without a 7 year qualification process because of his family history but I would re-emphasise the fact that to be eligible to represent HK, he will need a HK passport and therefore give up his British nationality.
    Enjoy HK. Mark

  12. Thanks Mark

    I will look into this further.

    By the way, did you see the comment from the thread regarding FIFA basing their eligibility on Right of Abode and no mention of passports?

    I wonder which document Doug R was referring to.

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