Alessandro Ferreira Leonardo, better known as Sandro, is one of the most recognisable players in Hong Kong. The affable forward is a mainstay of the local football scene and is now one of the most storied domestic players in terms of trophies and achievements. It would be hard to miss Sandro as fans will have seen that he has played for a whole plethora of different domestic clubs for the best part of a decade.
Sandro is now at Eastern and after winning the title last season with Tai Po, he is looking for more success with his current team. Sandro shared his new ambitions as he is still hungry for success and glory.
“For me, I want to be a league champion with Eastern and also win a cup. If there is a chance to reach a cup final, then that would be great and I would also like to be the top scorer in the league.”
At Eastern, Sandro missed out on playing with his old Hong Kong strike partner, Jaimes McKee, who just retired after the end of last season.
“I miss Jaimes in football, as he is a nice guy and I saw him in Sai Kung recently.”
When Sandro first arrived on Hong Kong’s shores back in the 2008/2009 season, like many, he expected to stay a year or two and move on. Similar to the experience of a lot of players, though, those one or two years turned out to be more than a decade and not only does he consider Hong Kong home now, he has now represented Hong Kong in the international arena.
“In my first or second year in Hong Kong, I wanted to come back to Brazil to play in the first division over there.”
Unless you are say Messi or Ronaldo, the world of top-level football can be a perilous and ever-changing world with very little stability. Sandro thought about the idiosyncrasies of Brazilian football and decided that Hong Kong football, though far from perfect, would probably offer him more stability and the rest is history.
“After staying for one or two to three years, I started to think ‘I will stay in Hong Kong as it is quite stable and safe.’ I had some experiences in Brazil, where the clubs did not pay salaries or salaries were delayed. Experiences like that made me stay in Hong Kong longer. After I was in Hong Kong for five years, I started to think about the Hong Kong team.”
Sandro has now been in Hong Kong for over a decade and is comfortable here and very happy.
“Hong Kong is now my home. I am very happy to play for Hong Kong and it is an honour. It is an amazing feeling.”
Sandro enjoyed a great period of success while at Kitchee and shared his favourite memory of his time there.
“My best memory at Kitchee was in the league, when I scored a hat-trick against Eastern to clinch the title on the last day of the season. That moment was my best memory for me.”
Sandro is proud to represent Hong Kong and he thinks the diverse nature of the squad can only be seen as an advantage for domestic football. He takes great pride in putting on the Hong Kong shirt and feels a true connection to Hong Kong fans.
“Diversity is good as it makes the Hong Kong team strong. This places local football on another level. When you stay in Hong Kong for a long time, you feel you are a ‘Hong Konger’ and it is a pleasure to play for Hong Kong!”
Sandro has now played for three different Hong Kong managers including Kim Pan-Gon, Gary White and Mixu Paatelainen, so the Brazilian is in a good position to discuss their different management and tactical styles.
“Their thinking is different. Kim was more defensive, which made the Hong Kong team improve. As for Gary White, he liked to attack and had some good tactical thinking. Mixu likes to use the ball with runs from the back. With all these managers, you just have to adapt though this is good for the players to learn and adapt to different methods.”
Sandro likes to develop and learn both on and off the pitch. His language skills have also improved while in Hong Kong. Along with his native Portuguese, he also learnt to speak English despite not knowing any when he first arrived in Hong Kong.
“I learnt how to speak English in Hong Kong. I learnt with friends here as many people in Brazil do not speak English.”
Sandro is synonymous with goals and he has scored some crucial ones in his decade in Hong Kong. Despite all his goals in cup finals and title deciders, his favourite goal was from 2010 when he played for Citizen.
“My favourite goal was for Citizen against Happy Valley, I scored from the middle of the pitch in 2010!”
Sandro appreciates that these are trying times in Hong Kong and did not forget the most important people in Hong Kong football: the fans who are the lifeblood of all the teams.
“Thank you to the fans for supporting the Hong Kong team and the clubs. We try our best and not all our games are the best, but we try hard and still need support for both Hong Kong and the domestic clubs.”