Local football went through an “ice age” from 2002 to 2006. During this period, the investment of each team was greatly reduced, and the number of admissions was low. Hong Kong football received very little attention in the society. However, during this period, Sun Hei became the second team after South China to achieve the local quadruple championship in 2004-05, and at the same time reached the semi-finals of the AFC Cup for the first time in history. In 2006, the Hong Kong team also played draw with Uzbekistan twice in the Asian Cup qualifiers.
Julius Akosah from Cameroon is the representative figure of Hong Kong football in this era. He started playing football when he was a child, and started training and playing in the local second group club when he was about 14-15 years old. When he was about 19 years old, Akosah went to a team trial from French Ligue 2. At that time, he met a Hong Kong man who worked in FIFA. He said that a Hong Kong team needed a striker: “I only know Hong Kong movies and Jackie Chan. I don’t know that Hong Kong has football games. But Hong Kong is close to Japan. They told me that if I continue to work hard and perform well, I can have the opportunity to develop in the J League.”
Akosah came to this Asian city and joined Rangers. His high scoring efficiency soon attracted Sun Hei, a powerful team at the time, to invite him to join. Akosah not only helped the team win the league championship, but also became the league marksman and was selected as the best eleven. From 2004 to 2005, Sun Hei won all the championships in Hong Kong, qualified first in the AFC Cup group stage, defeated Lebanese representative Al Ahed FC in the quarterfinals, and entered the semifinals in history. Akosah is also the team’s main shooter.
As the main player of Sun Hei, Akosah believes that the level of football in Hong Kong during this period was not low: “From 2001 to 2006, although the income of players was not high, they still played good football. You can see that the Hong Kong team was dominated by Chinese players, with only a small number of naturalized players, but they still had no fear of rivals. On the contrary, during the period from 2008 to 2015, because there were not enough young players to take over, the football level did not seem to be as strong as before, and the Hong Kong team increasingly relied on naturalized players.”
Akosah played for Kitchee, Eastern AA and Sun Hei successively. In 2010, Akosah moved to Indonesian Persija Jakarta: “After staying in Hong Kong for a while, I hope to find new challenges. After going to Indonesia, I felt a completely different football culture. There was only one sold-out game in Hong Kong for many years. It was Kitchee vs. South China in 2007 (Akosah opened the record first in this game); but in Indonesia, most of the games were full. This is a very different experience.”
Akosah’s outstanding performance also attracted the attention of the Cameroon national team. He was selected into the training team twice. The Cameroon team nicknamed “Les Lions Indomptables” was the African Cup of Nations champion for two consecutive times in 2000 and 2002. It was also the 2002 World Cup final week team.
After Akosah was selected, he trained with Samuel Eto’o, the world-class star who was playing for Barcelona at the time, and it became a good story.
In the end Akosah never played for Cameroon. In 2010, he obtained the status of a Hong Kong local player. Unfortunately, due to the delayed approval of his passport, he only played for the Hong Kong team in the Canton-HK Cup and was unable to participate in the EAFF E1 event that year.
After spending a year in Indonesia, Akosah returned to Hong Kong to play for Sun Hei again, and then moved to Tuen Mun and BC Rangers. After playing for Happy Vally in 2014, he bid farewell to his top league career. After that, he also started to work as a coach, and is currently the coach of the 2nd division team Fu Moon.
Akosah has been in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, and has seen all kinds of situations in different positions from player to coach: “After returning to Hong Kong from Indonesia and then playing for Sun Hei, the goal of the team’s participation in the game is different. It is not necessarily to improve, but to maintain the original level. Many teams are also like this, because the worst team does not need to be relegated. Even if there is relegation and promotion in the system, the same team is actually transferred to another team.
“There are some things I need to say. A Super League team wanted me and Gerard Ambassa Guy to coach them to improve their players’ physical fitness and status. But then “some people” in the team didn’t want to be coached by black people. I don’t know if it’s the owner or the players. Then the team found a white coach. Many African players have achieved high results in Hong Kong football. We also have qualified A-level or B-level coaching licenses, but when some so-called professional teams have only C-level or even D-level licenses, you don’t see them An African as the head coach of the Super League team (Editor’s note: Gerard Ambassa Guy was the caretaker coach of the Rangers in 2017). It’s about who you know, not what you know.”
“Some Hong Kong teams don’t have a year-round plan, only a monthly plan. They only register players and find sponsors after the start of the season. They have to play four or five games to complete all the formation work and administrative work. At this time, the team has already lost a lot of points… As for the players, many young players did not add exercises during the off-season. These pre-season trainings do not mean playing football on the street courts, but improving their physical fitness and training.
Akosah is now mainly engaged in coaching work. In addition to managing the adult team, he also taught children to play football. He also coached the youth team in Shenzhen: “There are many good football schools in Hong Kong, but there are still not enough coaches. We can look at Japan, Malaysia and other places. They have a lot of coaches and have trained many good players. If even middle school coaches can have A-level and B-level licenses, the quality of the players must be a lot. The level of competition from U10 to U16 is very high, but when it comes to U16 to U21, players start to think about their studies and future, and this period of time has become their window period.”
Although he did not go to Japan in his career, he did not feel any regrets or regrets: “This is my destiny. Even if I go to Japan, I may eventually return to Hong Kong. For me, life in Hong Kong is very simple, and it is very easy to adapt. Now I only return to Cameroon unless I visit relatives or work. Hong Kong is already my home. Moreover, the football level in Hong Kong is not as low as I imagined. It also pushed me a lot back then, making it easier for me to adapt when I played in Indonesia.”
In 2018, the super typhoon Mangkhut caused damage to the Hong Kong market. Some social media posted a video showing a group of Africans living in Hong Kong volunteering to help clean the streets. In the video, Akosah also helped sweep the streets with a broom on Nathan Road. “I am already a citizen of Hong Kong. Hong Kong society has given me a lot. I have the responsibility to contribute to society.”
|姓名||凱撒·亞古沙 Julius Pongla Akosah|
|Pro Teams||Bluer Rangers（2001-02）|
Sun Hei/ Xiangxue Sun Hei（2002-06）
Kowloon City District（2019）