Kitchee strive to continue their reign of excellence by continuing to create AFC Champions League history

Having achieved the domestic treble for the 5th time in the 2022/23 season, Kitchee are officially back in action for pre-season training today. The Team has signaled their intentions to defend their Premier League title, which the season will begin in August, as well as challenging for the AFC Champions League with the group stage fixtures set to begin in September. “Strive for Greatness/Identity/The Future” are the tagline of Kitchee in the 2023/24 season, meaning those core values are what Kitchee aim to fight for this year.

Despite winning the domestic treble last season, Kitchee strive to continue their reign of excellence by continuing to create AFC Champions League history, reinforcing domestic dominance, as well as producing more homegrown talents towards the 2023/24 season.

Alex Chu Chi Kwong will stay and remain as Football Director & Head Coach at Kitchee in the new season, along with Kim Dongjin as Assistant Coach of the First Team. Kim will also step into the Technical Director role at the Academy. Yoon Dong-Hun will remain his role as Fitness Coach and has recently been appointed as the Head of Data Analysis Department. Apart from analyzing the physical and performance data with the CUHK Medical Clinic@Kitchee medical team, he will also be responsible for designing effective training programs for players. Technical Analyst Manuel Crespo Carabaña will return as part of Kitchee’s backroom staff, after his appointment as Kitchee Academy Coach in the 2017/18 season. Another new appointment is former Kitchee player Guo Jianqiao. Guo, who played for Kitchee for a decade, will take up the First Team and Academy Goalkeeper Coach role. Captain Huang Yang and defender Roberto are given a rousing reception as they are going to take place among Kitchee’s coaching staff for the first time at the start of 2023/24 season as Data Analyst and Assistant Coach respectively. While Huang will be tasked with analyzing vast amounts of data to deliver actionable insights. “Sports science is eagerly important to today’s football and its focus is on maximizing performance and effectiveness, as well as preventing injury. Huang is definitely a great fit for this specific work based on his academic background. While Roberto is a very experienced veteran as he always helps and takes care of the others on and off the pitch, he will be a great addition to the backroom staff.” Head Coach Alex Chu shared his thoughts on his new backroom additions.

Kitchee have confirmed the departures of 16 players ahead of the 2023/24 season, including players who have their contracts expired this summer and players who are returned from loans. In terms of new players, Kitchee are delighted to announce 5 new signings, along with Shinichi Chan, who has returned from loan, and two youngsters who will be called upon from the academy to challenge the first-team players. There will be a total of 26 players (with Huang Yang and Roberto excluded) in the squad, where Kitchee aim to have at least one reliable backup for each position to challenge the AFC Champions League, as well as to reduce the number of young players who are specifically assigned to play in the JC Sapling Cup.

Kitchee are proud to unveil the new signings of Nigerian international Ogenyi Onazi, former North Macedonian international Aleksandar Damcevski, Chinese defender Yibulayimu Kuerban, Brazilian striker Walter Soares Belitardo Júnior from BC Rangers, and the local midfielder Tan Chun Lok, who joined months ago.

Onazi, 30, is a central midfielder who was named in Nigeria’s final squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and started in all four games. His colorful career has seen him play for multiple top-division European clubs, including Serie A giant Lazio, 7th Turkish Süper Lig title Trabzonspor, and a recent spell at Al-Adalah in Saudi Arabia. Head Coach Alex Chu expressed his admiration for the Nigerian as his energy, box-to-box potential, and his experienced profile are going to be a great addition to Kitchee in the hunt for the AFC Champions League.

The second new arrival of the summer at Kitchee is the defender Aleksandar Damcevski. The 30-year-old center-back, who was born in France, has spent most of his professional football career in Europe, including playing for NAC Breda in the Eredivisie in the 2014/15 season, as well as his recent spell at Albanian football club KF Bylis. Damcevski has also earned a total of 4 caps for the North Macedonia national football team. “Damcevski is a tall but skillful defender, I hope he can build a great partnership with other defensive players.” Head Coach Alex Chu gave us an insight into the new signing.

Another new signing is left full-back Yibulayimu Kuerban, 22, who was once included in the China U21 training squad.

Following Kuerban is Tan Chun Lok. The midfielder, who is a regular Hong Kong international, joined the Team from Guangzhou City several months ago.

The 32-year-old striker Walter Soares Belitardo Júnior, commonly known as “Juninho”, was BC Rangers top scorer last season, bagging 15 goals in all competitions. The Brazilian has resided in Hong Kong for 7 years and is eligible for HKSAR passport application.

Besides new signings, Shinichi Chan has returned from loan this summer. The 20-year-old was injured and now has gradually resumed training after playing for the Spanish side Real Unión in the second half of last season.

Foreign players such as Ruslan Mingazov, Cleiton, Mikael, Igor Sartori, and Charlie Scott will remain at Kitchee ahead of the new season while the Korean striker Kim Shin-wook will soon to be back in full training after a spell on the sidelines. In addition, Fernando, Law Tsz Chun, Oliver Gerbig, Hélio, Andy Russell, Paulo César, Wang Zhenpeng, Ainikaer Maihemuti, Cheng Chin Lung, Poon Pui Hin, and Kam Chi Kin Jason will stay as first team players in the new season.

Meanwhile, a number of players are set to go out on loan to get regular playing minutes, including Academy graduates Ngan Cheuk Pan, Sohgo Ichikawa, Chen Ngo Hin, Chang Kwong Yin, Yim Kai Cheuk, and player Jordon Brown. Kitchee have also confirmed that Tsang Yi Hang Ellison (study abroad), Ho Chun Ting, Tsang Chun Hin, and Dai Tsz Hin Marcus are set to depart the Club upon the expiration of their contracts. Meanwhile, Clément Benhaddouche, Seb Buddle (in negotiation), and Alex Akande will start their journeys in the China League 1.

While U18 youngsters Matthew Slattery and Tuscany Shek, who helped Kitchee U18 crowned the double last season, have just signed their first professional contracts with the Club. The Striker and Captain Matthew Slattery is best known for his speed and strength. His sense of finishing will be a great addition to the team. Whereas Shek, at his age of 15, has been training with the First Team last season will be a great back-up for the defense department. Including Matthew and Shek, Shinichi Chan (2002), Kam Chi Kin Jason (2004), and Yuen Chun Him (2006), are all eligible to play in the JC Sapling Cup.

The previous season was incredible, but Kitchee are already turning their attention to the next campaign. “Kitchee will conclude the pre-season preparations with a tour in Thailand for an 18-day stay. From July 24 to August 10, Kitchee will play 6 friendly games, with 4 games playing against Thai League 1 teams. Kitchee are trying their best to provide free LIVE streaming for those 4 games that will see them playing against Buriram United F.C. (July 26), Bangkok United F.C. (July 30), Uthai Thani F.C. (August 2), and Trat F.C. (August 6). Also, the Premier League season will begin slightly early as usual due to Hong Kong Representative Team’s AFC Asian Cup preparations. This is as to why Kitchee will have their pre-season set in Thailand this year.” Kitchee Teams Operations Manager Lester Chiu explained the reason why Kitchee are going to Thailand for pre-season preparations.

The official Premier League 2023/24 fixtures and authorized TV broadcast schedules are still yet to be released by HKFA. Tickets, matchday information and such will be provided shortly. Moreover, the AFC group stage draw will take place in late August, with the first fixtures scheduled on September 18/19. Matchday information will be provided shortly.