Summer Talent From HK
did not waste any unnecessary time in deploying the unexpected funds, as he turned to the crown jewel of Dutch fifth divisioners fc pilsener - former Hong Kong youth international centreback Ha Qicai
. Ha had been the leader of a formidable backline comprised of himself, Oscar Di Marco and Artur Voinovskiy, and the lure of a similar impact on the Birds' oft-shaky defence, would convince Tian to dole out just over S$11 million for him.
This would be somewhat over the odds, but given Ha's presence and aerial intangibles, it was perhaps not entirely unreasonable. Ambitious Luxembourg II.1 side SandweileRossAzzurra CT46 were banking on him to help salvage their season, from how their Vietnamese boss Nguyễn Đức Mạnh bid up the price, with Brazilian IV.7 high-fliers Operario Ferroviario E.C being the other major interested party. Earlier on, ZIONTEAM (French Division Five), Legión Extranjera LARA F.C. (Argentine Division Four), Herzliya Donkeys FC (Israeli Division Three) and Langendonk Tigers (Liechtenstein Division Two), Bielania (Polish Division Five) among others had their go, with three-time Ivory Coast national champions Elf Elfenbein-Elfen rumoured to be Ha's preferred destination.
All of that would be history now, with Ha displaying the green Number Fourteen jersey together with a beaming Tian, who continued to shock by declaring his intent to make the newcomer club captain. "All the players will have their say, of course, but it makes sense really. Chan Ze Han
won't be starting most games nowadays, Federico Parada
will be caught upfield often, and the likes of Hwang, Lim and Phua have the character and potential, but are a bit too young."
The former Wong Tai Sin street kid has certainly come a long way since his days with local now-defunct club Newcomer FC, with whom he broke into the Hong Kong U-20 setup, and won his only cap in a 2-0 away friendly win in Honduras. He nearly scored from a textbook corner setup in the 64th minute then, which he has yet to tire of recounting, with club teammate and fellow defender Mok Tianbin finally sweeping it in.
Mok has coincidentally also recently returned to Asia - back home with the Hong Kong Gifters, to be precise - after a long stint in Sweden, which Ha admitted was one of the factors affecting his final choice. "Everybody was nice in the Netherlands, but I never got used to the food." the 27 year-old admitted readily. "At some point, it matters a lot. Oh, that and trophies."