The HKFA appointed experienced corporate manager Joaquin Tam as the new CEO. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
Following a lengthy search, the Hong Kong Football Association has finally appointed a new Chief Executive Officer. Joaquin Tam has over 25 years of experience in multinational corporations, most recently as the General Manager for Asia-Pacific at Southco. He is expected to improve the overall standing of the HKFA, both strategically and operationally, with the federation facing ongoing scrutiny over its underwhelming track record. Undoubtedly, Tam will face a tough task ahead, but after years of stagnation the timing seems right to hand the steering wheel to someone with managerial leadership skills. The new CEO will also be able to get an idea of the current state of the game with a couple of Premier League games still to play.
The regular season is coming to an end, which also marks the debut of a new fixture arrangement. With only eight top-tier clubs, the HKFA decided early on to add a third round after splitting the league into a championship and relegation group. This means, the top four teams will play each other once more for an end-of-season showdown to decide the title race, while the bottom four teams would play out relegation. However, there are a few limitations in place that could also hamper the excitement.
All teams will carry over their points from the regular season. This leaves only Kitchee and Eastern with an actual chance to win the title. Pegasus and Lee Man would at least still have an AFC Cup spot to fight for and could also turn into the kingmakers if they upset one of the two league giants. Meanwhile, Kitchee will most likely start with a three-point lead over Eastern into this championship group, which could turn the last encounter between the two clubs on May 23 into a proper finale.
Southern, Rangers, Resources Capital, and Happy Valley will face each other in the relegation group, but based on experience from previous years it is not expected that any of the teams would indeed be relegated. Rather, the HKFA may try to increase again the number of clubs in the top division, with ten seemingly the most admirable count. The remaining games may not be entirely meaningless though, as the relegation group winners are expected to receive a cash prize.
Meanwhile, the First Division has reached its half-way point after seven games, with two teams in the title race. Hong Kong Football Club are currently on top, still unbeaten, but just two points ahead of North District. The two sides will meet each other on May 16 at Fanling Recreation Ground for what could be a six-pointer for the championship, as the clubs only play each other once this season.
The women’s league has also seen a major result. Title contenders Citizen beat rivals Kitchee 1-0, with Ho Mui-mei scoring the decisive goal in the 87th minute. The top four teams – Happy Valley, Kitchee, Citizen, and Sha Tin – are now all within three points, promising an exciting season-finish in the weeks ahead.
For now, there are still five games left in the regular season of the Hong Kong Premier League.
KITCHEE vs RANGERS, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, May 7, 8 pm
On Friday night, Kitchee and Rangers will square off at Mong Kok Stadium. On normal days, this match-up should be a one-sided affair for the reigning champions, but they also struggled in the previous encounter this season, which ended in a goalless draw. Rangers have a few former Kitchee players in their squad as well that may feel a bit of extra motivation, but they definitely need to keep an eye on striker Dejan Damjanovic, who recently received the MVP awards in February and March. The Montenegrin striker is currently joint top scorer of the Premier League, together with Southern’s James Ha.
Lee Man celebrated a 4-1 win over Happy Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
LEE MAN vs RESOURCES CAPITAL, Premier League, Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, May 9, 3 pm
Despite their recent 4-1 win over Happy Valley, it is somewhat confirmed that Lee Man’s season has been rather disappointing. The Bees withdrew from the Sapling Cup and even though they qualified for the championship group, they have no chance anymore to win a trophy. At the moment, they are even at risk to lose their AFC Cup spot to third-placed Pegasus, who are already four points ahead of them in the table.
EASTERN vs HAPPY VALLEY, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, May 9, 8 pm
On Sunday night, Eastern will take on Happy Valley – and with another win they would once again underline their title ambitions. As long as they go with just three points difference into the championship group, it is still in their own power to finish on top – provided they win all of their games. The Blues had a rather lucky 2-1 win over Southern the other night, but Sandro’s decisive match winner in the 93rd-minute was also a great showcase of the team’s never-say-die spirit, which could be exactly what they need to challenge Kitchee.
James Ha scored a hat-trick in Southern's latest 4-1 win over Resources Capital. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKFA)
KITCHEE vs SOUTHERN, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, May 10, 8 pm
On Monday night, Kitchee and Southern will face off at Mong Kok. What used to be a fierce rivalry in the past has lost a bit of its appeal this season, as the Aberdeeners struggle to keep up. The most recent 4-1 win over Resources Capital may be a good boost for morale though, especially for striker James Ha, who scored a hat-trick. Southern also just signed ex Kitchee and R&F player Matt Lam.
RANGERS vs PEGASUS, Premier League, Mong Kok Stadium, May 11, 8 pm
Last but not least, Rangers and Pegasus will play the last game of the regular season on Tuesday, May 11. With a win, the Flying Horsemen could put themselves in an even better position to finish third this year and qualify for the AFC Cup. Pegasus have improved tremendously under coach Kenneth Kwok, who is often tipped to become the next head coach of the HKFA representative team.
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