Football in Hong Kong

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Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Hong Kong, followed by rugby union.[1][2][3] The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) is the governing body for football in Hong Kong. In recent years, major attempts have been made by Hong Kong government to improve both HKFA’s governance and the quality of Hong Kong football under ‘Project Phoenix’.


The Hong Kong football team in 1923 or 1924

The first football club of Hong Kong is Hong Kong Football Club, usually known as The Club, founded in 1886. The Club is one of the oldest existing football clubs in Asia.

The first football competition of Hong Kong is the Challenge Shield, which founded in 1898. Its format is similar to the FA Challenge Cup in England.

Tracing back to early 20th century, the Hong Kong football league was founded in 1908. It is probably the oldest professional league in Asia. Most records before the Second World War have been lost and not many people can remember the old glory of Hong Kong's professional football.

The Hong Kong Football Association, the governing body of Hong Kong football, was founded in 1914 and is one of the oldest football associations in Asia.[4]

In the 1970s and 1980s, football in Hong Kong was strong and popular, with competitive local teams boosted by well known overseas players and managers, playing in front crowds of tens of thousands.

In 1985, in a famous match, Hong Kong overcame favourites China, 2-1, in Beijing, to move towards a place in the 1986 World Cup, though ultimately it was not to be.[5]

Football league system

All the football leagues are organised by the HKFA.

Premier League

Hong Kong Premier League started in September 2014. There are ten teams competing in the league. It operates the system of promoting one club from the First Division and relegating the club at the bottom of the table. It is currently the top division football league in Hong Kong.

First Division League

The Hong Kong First Division League, founded in 1908, was the first professional football league in Asia. The First Division League is contested between 10 teams in the recent seasons, but will be contested between 12 teams starting from the 2013–14 season. For the 2012–13 season, the bottom club is relegated to the Hong Kong Second Division League, while three top clubs of Second Division League is promoted.

Lower Division leagues

Lower division leagues are formed by Second Division League, Third Division League and Fourth Division League. Most of the teams are semi-professional, or even amateur.

Level League(s)/Division(s)
1 Hong Kong Premier League
10 clubs
↓↑ 1 club
2 Hong Kong First Division League
16 clubs
↑↓ 4 clubs
3 Hong Kong Second Division League
14 clubs
↑↓ 4 clubs
4 Hong Kong Third Division League
12 clubs
↓ 2 clubs


Cup competitions

All the cup competitions are also organised by the HKFA. Among them the HKFA Cup and Silver Shield are probably the oldest professional football competitions in Asia - even earlier than the league.

There are several cup competitions for clubs at different levels of the football pyramid. The most important cup competition is the Senior Challenge Shield, with the winners of those competitions qualifying for the AFC Cup.

  • The Senior Challenge Shield, established in 1896, is the oldest football knockout inter-club competition in Asia. Usually only the teams in First Division would enter into the competition. However, sometimes teams in lower divisions (usually the champion of Junior Shield) are invited to increase the number of participating teams.
  • The FA Cup, established in 1974, is Hong Kong's second major cup competition. It was contested by clubs competing in First Division, Second Division and Third Division. Since 1981, the cup has been limited to top-flight teams due to the huge difference in playing level between the First Division and the inferior levels below it.
  • The Junior Challenger Shield, established in 1922, is the major cup for clubs playing in levels 2–4 of the football pyramid.

There have also been a number of other cup competitions which are no longer run:

  • The League Cup (2000–2009, 2010–2012) is an annual football competition contested by clubs in the First Division League. It was being discontinued in the 2009–10 season but was relaunched for the 2010-11 season. However, the cup is discontinued again in the 2012–13 season.
  • The Community Shield (2009–2010) is a single match played each August between the winners and first runners-up of the previous season's First Division League.
  • The Viceroy Cup (1969–1998) was the first football competition in Hong Kong which allowed business sponsorship.

Cup eligibility

Notable clubs

National team

The Hong Kong national football team represents Hong Kong in international football events. The team competed their first international match in 1947 against South Korea during the colonial period. Even after 1997 the transfer of sovereignty to China, it continues to represent Hong Kong separately from the People's Republic of China as its own national team in international competitions due to the "One country, two systems" principle. The team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, the closing time was during the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualification, which is also marked as their most successful period between the 1970s and 1980s. The Hong Kong Football Team is ranked 140th on the FIFA world rankings, as of October 2016.


  1. ^ Chan Kin-wa [email protected] (2014-01-24). "'Football will die' in Hong Kong without funding under Project Phoenix | South China Morning Post". Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  2. ^ "Time Out Hong Kong | Big Smog | Hong Kong news, current affairs, politics and social issues | Tackling the football crisis". 2012-09-24. Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  3. ^ SCMP Editorial (2014-01-24). "Soccer in Hong Kong needs to clean up its act to win back fans | South China Morning Post". Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  4. ^ "HKFA". SCMP. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Will Hong Kong ever reach a World Cup .. ?, SCMP, 8 June 2014

External links

  • HKFA official site - English version (Chinese version also available)
  • Hong Kong Football - (English version)
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