Last summer Guangzhou R&F did something very rarely seen in football. They started a satellite team. The team was called R&F (very original) and was entered into the Hong Kong Premier League.
It’s not far from Guangzhou to the former British territory with Hong Kong sharing the northern border with the Guangdong province, where Guangzhou lies, so the move made sense.
The Hong Kong FA put down a couple of conditions for the new team if they wanted to come.
1: Signing at least eight Hong Kong players
2: Using at least three Hong Kong players
3: No players of any other nationality than Chinese/Hong Kong could be registered.
4: A cup had to be sponsored with a fee of HKD 1million.
The Guangzhou organisation agreed and the new team was added.
The team mainly comprised of players from Guangzhou R&F’s Under-19 team and the newcomers played in the Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground in Hong Kong.
The young team were lead by Guangzhou R&F youth coach Li Zhiahi, the former Guangzhou Evergrande captain, who captained the side to the League One title in 2007, and they were off to a rough start.
They lost the season opener to powerhouse Eastern with a whopping 6-1 and fell short in the following match, where they lost 2-0 to Biu Chun Glory Sky.
The first win came in round four where they beat Pegasus 2-1. Then followed a six game losing streak before the next win came against the eventual last-placed team, Hong Kong FC, where they won 1-0.
Another two losses, including a heavy defeat to Kitchee (5-0), before HKFC once again were defeated, this time 3-4, in what was to be R&F’s last win of the season. They managed a 0-0 draw with Glory Sky as well in the third to last round.
The first season for the satellite team saw them end 10th out of 11 with 10 points, but ultimately stayed up quite comfortably as the only relegation slot was occupied by HKFC who only managed six points across the 20 games. The first season saw R&F end with a record of 3-1-16 and a goal difference of -40.
Ahead of the next season, the league has been trimmed from 11 to 10 teams as South China, who finished fourth last season, did not apply for a license.
R&F are set to face Yuen Long in the first round in a few weeks time and the new manager, Polish Marek Zajac, have a few new things to look forward to.
The team have been allowed to relocate back to Guangzhou and will now play their home games at the Yanzigang Stadium which would hopefully bring in more attendance than last years miserable 207 people in average attendance, well bottom of the league, in an 11,981 capacity stadium.
R&F have also been allowed to sign three foreign players, still less than all others, who are allowed five foreigners plus another Asian foreigner, and have signed Marko Perovic and Giovane who have experience from the league, while at the same time loaning in Bruninho from Guangzhou R&F.
It will be interesting to see if the R&F project will be successful in the long run and they need to stay up this year to be worth it.