Kwok supports format change

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 1996, 12:00am

Newly appointed national coach Kwok Ka-ming has thrown his support behind a proposed move to increase the number of league matches, saying it would largely benefit national players preparing for next year's World Cup qualifiers.

Senior clubs on Tuesday night proposed to increase First Division matches from two rounds of competition to four.

The proposal, which is expected to be rubber-stamped at the next Hong Kong FA council meeting later this month, would mean First Division clubs will play 24 league matches as opposed to 12.

While some players have bemoaned the prospect of having to play more league matches, Kwok said it was the best way to prepare for international competitions like the World Cup.

'Clubs will have to play at least one match a week and playing matches is better than training,' said Kwok, who has returned to the post he vacated six years ago.

'In the past, we had cases where clubs didn't play a match in a month, which was ridiculous. Clubs want to help the national squad and I think they have agreed to release their players for national squad training at least twice a week.' Senior clubs have also supported the move, knowing the territory have tough matches ahead in the Asian Group Six World Cup qualifiers next February. Hong Kong have been drawn against four-time World Cup finalists South Korea and recent Tiger Cup champions Thailand.

'The national squad needs to get together at least four or five months before our World Cup matches because we have to discuss what we are going to do and how best to prepare for it,' said Kwok.

The national squad are expected to travel overseas later this year to prepare for their World Cup matches.

'I've written to the Japan and Malaysian Football Associations requesting that they arrange matches for us to play them. These countries would also be preparing for their World Cup matches,' said Kwok.

'They have been suggestions that we travel to Europe in November or December but I think it's not possible because of the cold weather there. It would make more sense if we travel to other Asian countries because some of the other leagues are completed by November.' Meanwhile, South China tonight play their last game before travelling to Nagoya on Monday for their third round, first leg Asian Cup Winners' Cup clash against Grampus Eight.

South China striker Dale Tempest plays his old team, Eastern, at Mongkok Stadium.

Tempest, who has recovered from an ankle injury sustained in last Sunday's clash with Indonesian side Mastrans Bandung Raya, said: 'Although I will be playing against my old team in name, Eastern are not the same team as before apart from a few youth players. The ankle feels a bit sore but I should be okay.'