'Unfit' HK youngsters slammed
Hong Kong's young players need a dramatic improvement in their match fitness if they are ever to succeed at the international level, a top official warned yesterday.
The alarm bell, sounded by Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak, came after the city's disastrous showing in the AFC Under-22 Cup qualifying tournament in Laos where they were the only team to lose all their five matches.
The team, who returned from Vientiane last night, finished bottom of the group which also had group champions North Korea, China, Thailand, Cambodia and the hosts. Both North Korea and China will qualify for the finals next year.
'The result is terrible as we didn't even score a single point in five matches,' said Leung. 'As I far as I understand, many of the players suffered fatigue after the first two or three matches, leaving the coach a tough selection job. We understand it was very demanding to play in a tournament of over 10 days, but there is no excuse for lacking the required stamina.'
Leng, however, would not blame any coaching staff member, saying match fitness was under the responsibility of individual clubs. 'The coach has limited time to gather the players before a tournament and his task is mainly to train them on team tactics and strategy,' said Leung. 'Their fitness level has to be built during daily training and this is a matter for the clubs.'
Leung said a report on the Under-22 side's performance in Laos will be submitted soon and the HKFA board will study it carefully before making further recommendations. 'Their target is the East Asia Games in Tianjin next year and the result in Laos serves as a timely alert before we start the preparations to defend the Games title which we won as the hosts in 2009.'
To provide adequate training for young players who are interested in competitive soccer, the association will continue with their Young Football Development Programme with support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club in the next three years.
Selected young players of programme will be given year-long training in 18 districts and, for the first time, female young players will also be recruited.
'District training is a critical part of our soccer development,' said Leung.
'High participation rates, improved coaching and an appropriate training environment are major components to ensuring the development of high quality players.'
Hong Kong's AFC Under-22 Cup side didn't pick up a single point while playing five soccer matches in a tournament in Laos last week