Congratulations to Kitchee for winning the 2016/17 BoC Life HKPL. It has been a long, hard-fought campaign and, as predicted in this blog a few months ago, the league went down to the very last game. It was fitting that the two top teams met to decide which one was going to be the Champion. It was a great afternoon at Mong Kok with a good atmosphere. What was most pleasing for me was that it was a sell-out. That shows that there is demand for local football and that we are making progress. As ever congratulations to my colleagues for yet more fantastic organisation. Thanks too to our sponsors BoC Life for their continuing support and for enabling us to improve the league in line with people’s expectations.
Having said that, it was disappointing to note that the behavior of many of the players, still leaves a lot to be desired. We had the usual time wasting, feigning injury, brandishing imaginary yellow cards, dissent on the pitch and from the dugout etc etc. This has got to stop because it is pathetic, embarrassing and ruining the game.
It goes without saying that whichever team comes out on top over the course of a whole season deserves to win. Kitchee has won the league on merit. They may well go on to win the treble this coming weekend and that would be a huge achievement. It is a commendable performance by any standard and reflects a well-run and purposeful club with excellent infrastructure and a solid Head Coach. Recently, I have been accused of many things by the Kitchee management which to be honest is of no concern to me in writing this blog or at all for that matter. As far as their football is concerned I have been consistent in saying that they are the standard bearers for Hong Kong. I fervently wish we had many more teams with their drive and commitment.
Despite what some people may think, I have no allegiance to any team in Hong Kong; I want them all to be successful. I have no favourites and am completely impartial. I am genuinely delighted that whoever wins our league has a chance to participate in the top tier AFC competition. I hope that if our prevailing AFC MA rankings are high enough and if Kitchee receive the AFC CL Club Licence, that they will play in the group stages of the 2018 AFC Champions League and be successful. I will support them all the way and I know my HKFA colleagues will do likewise. The fact that they will have achieved entry into the group stage on merit this time as league champions will make it even more satisfying for everyone. Of course it won’t make it any easier and as we have seen this season with Eastern, there is a massive gap in quality for them to overcome.
In that respect, I would like to offer some sympathy to Eastern who have been at the top of the league for most of the season. I witnessed firsthand the devastation they felt after the match. It has been a difficult time for them this season and I am sure that competing in the continental competition has taken its toll. Moving up to a new level and competing in domestic and regional competitions at the same time is a tall order. I have no doubt that Kitchee will find it tough too but it is a stepping stone for Hong Kong football. All stakeholders including the media should remember that and give our teams as much support as possible.
As another BoC Life HKPL season comes to a close, I reflect on the fact that the standard at the top has again improved but that the league as a whole is not strong enough. We must continue to strive to grow the sport as a whole here in Hong Kong to make the league more competitive and more sustainable. Progress in the ‘professional’ aspect of football in Hong Kong is slower than I would have liked, especially compared to other aspects of the sport which have made great strides forward. Over the next few months we will be preparing for the BoC Life HKPL 2017/18 season and we will be working hard to see how we can make things better.
Mark Sutcliffe, CEO