Just eight rounds into the season, the fight for the title in the 2016/17 Hong Kong Premier League has very much become a two-horse-race between Kitchee and Eastern. But these two clubs have also dominated headlines off the pitch, when it was revealed last week that the AFC might not accept the bid of Kitchee and Southern District to participate in the Asian Champions League group stages.
After Eastern had withdrawn from the competition in summer due to financial uncertainty, the HKFA nominated Kitchee and Southern which turned out to be a misinterpretation of the sporting criterion. Subsequently, this week the FA board decided to reinstate Eastern, which leaves Kitchee a place in the second qualifying round, while Southern will be left out entirely. It is expected that the responsible AFC committee will decide on this matter on Thursday, Nov 24. Meanwhile, HKFA chief Mark Sutcliffe vehemently defended himself against accusations from Kitchee and Southern and criticized that – through their behaviour – “Hong Kong football shot itself in the foot”.
But at least for the time-being, the focus this weekend will be on the ninth round in the Hong Kong Premier League, which will feature another interesting battle between the two New Territories sides in the division. Sharing the same amount of points in the league, Eastern and Kitchee will be eager to pick up a victory this weekend, before facing each other on Dec 3 in one of the most anticipated derbies this season.
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