Interview: Rangers Club Director Philip Lee

A club with a long and varied history in Hong Kong football, Rangers may not have the financial clout of teams such as Kitchee and Eastern, but what they lack in money they more than make up for in developing youth potential and providing a stern test for the bigger teams (as evidenced by their 2:0 victory over Eastern last week). Rangers Club Director Mr. Philip Lee sat down with Jeff Hardbattle to talk about the team, their aims, and the current state of the Hong Kong Premier League.

How have you found life as a club in the Hong Kong Premier League (HKPL) and what are the team’s aims for this season?

Struggling for resources whilst trying to remain competitive is sadly the life of this club in the HKPL. As in the past, we try to utilise our limited resources to achieve the best that we can, especially by providing playing opportunities to local youth players that show potential.

Ricardo Rambo has already asserted his own style on the team and last week Rangers caused a huge upset by beating Eastern in the League Cup. How impressed have you been with the way that he is guiding the players?

Rambo is a responsible and disciplinary coach, who is an expert at encouraging youth players and earning their respect. Beating a team like Eastern in the League Cup was a stimulating result, but it is not the end for this team. He keeps up with regular training sessions and keeps the players grounded, and further pushes them to improve even more in the future.

The signing of Lee Chi Ho was seen as a major one for the club by many of our readers. What has his talent and experience brought to the team?

Myself and Lee Chi Ho have been acquainted since he began playing football when he was 16 years old, but as is often the case in football, you meet many players but you don’t often have the chance to work with them. He is a typical example of this, and the fact we were able to sign him was by chance. His talent and experience is invaluable for motivating our youth players’ fighting spirit and also for providing insight as a professional football player.

Rangers are a well-established and well-respected club in the region. What makes Rangers stand out from other clubs in the Premier League?

Our club has more than 50 years of history in Hong Kong, and also has a brilliant record in promoting youth football development. Many local famous football stars have come through our ranks. We’re not only running a HKPL team, but also a Reserve Team, a Futsal Team, a Female Team and 5 youth teams. All teams provide support, resources and playing chances to potential youth players. I have been running this club for more than 22 years and still to this day, promoting youth football is the thing I love most about my work.

Do you feel that the clubs in the division receive enough support from the HKFA, and is there anything more that you feel they can do to help?

Phoenix project injected a big lump sum of money into football here, but we feel that the resources have not been used appropriately and football clubs have insufficient support from the HKFA, We have already suggested:

  • Lowering the cost of running matches, for example helping with match expenses or hosting “double header” matches (2 matches in succession at one venue).
  • Striving to find match venues and training grounds together with the HK Government and to attract more people to watch the games.
  • A players’ Insurance Scheme, which would provide more protection and benefits to the players.
  • More financial resources to support youth teams in the long run.
  • A players’ wages protection scheme with the HKFA and HK Government, i.e. a basic monthly salary which would attract local youth players to following a career in football.

These proposals have sadly fallen on deaf ears. It is quite disappointing and there seems to have been very few improvements since the project started three years ago.

How happy are you with the Premier League in its current format? Are there any changes that you would like to see?

Currently, the HKPL is nothing more than a symbol, one that cannot attract more funding and sponsorship from other resources. The attendances at local games has continued to be poor. Professional football needs monetary support and an independent hierarchy for the long run. Other than technical and administrative support, the HKFA needs to develop a better framework for upgrading players’ cognition, education and social development, which in turn can benefit youth players’ ultimate future development in their careers.

What are Rangers’ long term goals for the future?

As we always have, our club will continue to assist in developing and providing more potential youth players for the needs of football in Hong Kong.

It can be difficult for non-Cantonese speakers to follow the league in Hong Kong at times. As Rangers have a historical connection to the Scottish club Glasgow Rangers, there will be many westerners who have an interest in this side. How should they go about cheering for the club?

We welcome anyone who has interest in supporting Rangers. We encourage fans to communicate with us via our official website or Facebook page with their support, whether it’s mental, verbal (for example, writing to encourage our players, coaches or staff, player birthdays, post-match comments, etc.), or financially by their attendance at games or purchasing merchandise. We’d like to people to bridge the gap with their home country and HK Rangers by distributing news about the team.

Finally, as the national team are playing China this month, what do you think the result will be?

It is a tough match to cope with. Even if Hong Kong win or draw, it shows that we rely too much on Naturalized Players and other foreign players who’ve attained HK Passports. If we lose, it reveals that we must strengthen our youth training in the near future. Naturalized Players (normally around 30 years old) will be helpful to the HK Team in the short term, but the supply of local players is still our final goal.

Rangers are next in action when they face Eastern in the Sapling Cup on the 20th November at Kowloon Bay Park. They will then face South China in the Hong Kong Premier League on the 28th November at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. If you would like more information about Rangers, please check the club page for the team which can be found here.

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