During South China‘s League Cup semi final on March 20th, those in attendance might have noticed something strange. Where supporters of the Caroliners were usually waving flags and cheering for their team, there was a mind-numbing silence. It was the first strong statement of the major fan group ‘SCAA Noise Guards 130’, or ‘SNG130’ for short (named after their “home” stand at Hong Kong Stadium), to voice out their dissatisfaction.
The recent poor performances of the team are being seen by many fans as the final straw. For quite a while now, many followers have been irritated by the governance of the Hong Kong’s most successful club, who have failed to attain any real silverware for the last two seasons. In 2014 AET chairman Wallace Cheung replaced popular team convenor Steven Lo, and things seem to be changing for the worse. Among the questionable management decisions are the unintelligible departures of players – Yuto Nakamura was sent on loan to Wong Tai Sin, and Itaparica, who explained that his transfer to Xinjiang Tianshan was due to him being no longer required by South China.
Another area attracting critique from many fans has been the club’s PR, which has often appeared to lack the sensitivity and understanding necessary to run a professional football club. Some of the most recent mishaps include the boasting of bonus payments to their players, or the sharing of “feel good” pictures on the beach right after a disastrous 0:4 loss to Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup. Another instance was the club’s reaction to the fan boycott, in which they praised their own staff as well as children of invited football academies to break the silence in the stadium, without acknowledging the worries of their rattled fan base. If that’s not enough, in the past the club’s Facebook page was also known to delete comments and ban users for not supporting chairman Wallace Cheung.
In spite of two recent victories in both League Cup and Sapling Cup, SNG130 have vowed to leave their banners, flags and drums at home until the end of this season. While they do not directly call for a resignation of the current chairman, some crucial changes will be necessary to regain the trust of their fans in order to avoid mocking chants such as “This is a library” in the future. Obviously, the best way to overcome this crisis would be the start of an open dialogue between management and supporters.
Picture source: South China Football Team (Facebook page)