By Christopher KL Lau
Reliable, solid and unassuming, Jack Sealy has been a part of the Hong Kong national team’s compact and sturdy defence for several seasons now and was integral to Hong Kong’s spell binding run in the recent World Cup qualifiers where outstanding defending was core to Hong Kong’s great run of results. After working his way up the ranks of Hong Kong football, Sealy became established at South China. At Hong Kong’s biggest club, he enjoyed a string of successes which opened the door for him to join the national team and such was his commitment to the cause that, to be eligible to play, he applied for a Hong Kong passport and has not looked back since. Sealy has been a proverbial rock in the Hong Kong back line and local football fans have come to appreciate his quiet yet effective performances.
Sealy’s performances especially against China, which were televised throughout both Hong Kong and China, won him wide acclaim in Hong Kong and grudging respect in China as the latter were unable to break through the Hong Kong defence. His performances got him noticed by teams in the Chinese Super League and he has since made a career defining move up to Changchun Yatai F.C who are based in Changchun, Jilin. With the influx of both overseas stars and revenue (TV and advertising), these are exciting times in the Chinese Super League and so for Hong Kong based players like Sealy to make the move up north to both witness and partake in this sporting revolution is definitely a bonus and will only benefit the Hong Kong game as well.
In an exclusive interview, Jack Sealy of Changchun Yatai F.C, discusses his memories of Hong Kong football and the recent World Cup qualifying campaign
Before moving to the Chinese Super League, you played in Hong Kong for many years especially for South China. What is an outstanding memory for you from your time in Hong Kong football?
I can’t just choose one as I’ve had a few, but on a personal level, playing in the BAT (Barclays Asia Trophy 2013) tournament against Man City and Tottenham will always be a fond memory, as well as playing against Argentina. Also, playing for the Hong Kong team for the first time against Myanmar. From a team point of view, winning the Senior Shield with Sun Hei was amazing as we were major underdogs that day, and of course, winning the league with South China in my first season with the club.
Hong Kong have had an outstanding run in the World Cup qualifiers compared to previous campaigns. Why do you think this is? Is it down to good team spirit?
We got off to a good start in the first two games against Bhutan and the Maldives, and I think this gave the team confidence to go forward. Of course we had a bit of luck along the way in both China games, but sometimes good teams need luck to achieve things. The support from the fans was great as well and I think that really gave the team a huge boost. Sometimes we don’t get too much attention from the fans, but this campaign has been fantastic and I’m glad we were able to make the fans proud to be Hong Kongers!
Interest in local Hong Kong Premier league games is picking up again after many years of apathy and disinterest. How do you think fans can be attracted back?
I hope so. The league needs more interest and hopefully the fans can start to watch more games and support the local game. Its always difficult to attract support when the Premier League and other huge leagues in Europe and around the world are so easily accessible as people would rather watch big name players week to week instead of the Hong Kong league. Each year, the teams in the Hong Kong league are getting better and better, so hopefully the standard of football will improve and more and more people go to watch.
Teams like South China and Kitchee have always been on the threshold of the Asian Champions League but always fall short. How can they or even Eastern step up to the next level?
There isn’t too much difference in the teams in the AFC as you can see how both Kitchee and SCAA have done in the last couple of years. Its hard to say how they can step up to the next level, but having the confidence and will to win will take you a long way, especially when it comes to the knock-out stages.
Christopher KL Lau is a photographer, editor and marketing consultant for offside.hk https://twitter.com/Chris_KL_Lau