The HKFA have today announced the fixtures for the forthcoming Hong Kong Premier League season, set to commence on Friday 25th August, 2017.
The first match of the season will see an epic battle take place between last year’s champions Kitchee and runners-up Eastern at Mong Kok Stadium, with the game set to start at 8pm. Although the Bluewaves have made comparatively fewer signings to other teams, they still remain overwhelming favourites to retain the title this year, and it will be interesting to see how they fare against their biggest rivals in the league so early in the season.
On Saturday 26th August, Southern will take on Pegasus at Aberdeen Sports Ground at 2:30pm in match that promises plenty of goals from two strong-looking sides. The Aberdeeners have made some impressive additions to their squad (such as Zesh Rehman) with some media outlets suggesting they could even challenge for the title, whilst Pegasus have also added some depth to their line-up (such as Mahama Awal) to help improve on their disappointing campaign last season.
Following this match on Saturday, newcomers Dreams will host last year’s Sapling Cup winners Tai Po at Tsing Yi Sports Ground at 5:30pm. The hosts have signed up five Spanish players including former HKPL player Pablo Gallardo, as well as snapping up veteran defender Chan Wai-ho and Kitchee starlet Hiroma Hirokane on loan, and they could pull a few surprises this season. The Greens may have lost Lucas Silva to Kitchee, but they themselves have had a busy summer in the transfer market, signing players such as Dhiego Martins and Yuen Chun-sing (Division 1 top scorer for Sun Hei) in their quest to break into the top four.
Sunday 27th August will see Rangers take on league new boys Lee Man at 2:30pm at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground. Ironically, Rangers were sponsored by Lee Man last season, but after the latter decided to form their own team, Rangers are now back under the banner of Biu Chun Watch Hands Corp. Rangers have signed some solid back-up though in the form of Chuck Yiu-kwok from R&F and Igor Miovic, while Lee Man have signed many of the players from Rangers’ squad last year including Jordi Tarres (loan from Kitchee) as well as Stefan Pereira from Yuen Long. Expect their to be no love lost in this one.
The final match of the weekend will see Yuen Long host R&F at Yuen Long Stadium at 5:30pm. Having lost their sponsor company KMB (who have formed their own team in the 3rd Division), they may be less of a force this year, but have still made some astute signings such as Everton Camargo who was in sensation form for Glory Sky last season. R&F look set to rise to prominence after making a host of big name signings. Bruninho, who was initially signed for the CSL version of the team, will be one to watch this year as he possesses the kind of quality that is rarely seen in the Hong Kong Premier League.
Each club will have their own home field, except for Kitchee and Eastern, who continue to share Mongkok Stadium to host their respective games. The brand new Dreams FC will play at Tsing Yi Sports Ground, whilst Lee Man will play half of their season contests at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. Rangers will host their home games at Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, and Pegasus FC still keep their home advantage at Hong Kong Stadium. All three district teams, Yuen Long, Tai Po, and Southern District remain at their usual stadiums (Yuen Long Stadium, Tai Po Sports Ground, and Aberdeen Sports Ground respectively). The biggest change of all will be R&F, who move to the north side of the border in order to host their games at Yanzigang Stadium in Guangzhou.
As well as making the announcement on the HKPL fixtures, the HKFA also confirmed details on the domestic cup competitions that will be on offer this year. The Sapling Cup has been reformatted into a round robin group stage where the 10 top tier teams will be split into two groups, and the eventual top two teams from their respective group will progress to the semi-finals.
Also, the winners of this year’s FA Cup will take the second AFC Champions League spot, and the end-of-season playoffs will be scrapped. The Senior Shield, Sapling Cup and FA Cup will begin in September, October and December respectively, whilst the Community Cup Final between Kitchee and Eastern will take place on September 23rd.
Additionally, only the team that finishes in last place will be relegated from this season’s Hong Kong Premier League, whilst the highest ranked team that meets the licensing requirements in the 1st Division will be promoted.
Mark Sutcliffe, the Chief Executive Officer of the HKFA was in a very positive and upbeat mood regarding the new season, commenting “The 2016/17 BOC Life Hong Kong Premier League was very exciting with intrigue at both the top and the bottom right until the end. I am looking forward to the 2017/18 season and fully expect it to be another close competition. There have been a number of changes to the participating clubs and it will be interesting to see how all of the teams perform. The many inter-club transfers and new signings will also bring a sense of vibrancy to the league. Once again we must thank long-term sponsor BOC Life for their continued support. I really hope as many fans as possible go to watch the games live and enjoy the top quality football on show. Finally, good luck to all of the teams.”
The official schedule is available in pdf version via HKFA website: