Asia coach Kwok ready to take on the world

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong national head coach Kwok Ka-ming is used being in the spotlight, but it will be particularly bright when he leads the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian All-Stars against the FIFA World All-Stars tonight.

Kwok has had his moment of glory on the world stage. That came when he masterminded one of the biggest upsets in World Cup qualifying history with Hong Kong's famous 2-1 victory over China in 1985.

Now, the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) head coach has been given another chance for glory - against a side boasting some of the world's greatest players.

The 47-year-old knows he is up to the task and is confident he will hold his own in the esteemed company of his fellow Asians.

'I hope everybody will do their best and show how well Asian players can do,' said Kwok, a firm believer in his players' abilities, both the Asian All-Stars and his own national team.

'Most of the players of the Asian squad produced outstanding performances in last December's Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates. They are some the best in the region.' The players were picked by the AFC technical director Subramaniam Sinnathamby.

Although more than half of Kwok's players are from the Gulf states, Kwok said he would mix the players together to create a complete Asian style.

'I have studied video tapes of my players. I have two lineups in mind which suit the players' style and positions,' said the former Hong Kong international winger.

'I am not going to split the squad into two teams [the west and the east Asians].

'Everyone will have his chance to play for at least 45 minutes.' Kwok's players include reigning Asian Footballer of the Year Khodadad Azizi from Iran and his compatriot Ali Daei - top scorer at international level last year, 1995 Asian Footballer of the Year Masami Ihara of Japan and South Korea's veteran international midfielder-forward Ha Seok-ju.

Two-time Chinese Footballer of the Year Fan Zhiyi, his national teammates - goalkeeper Ou Chuliang and Hao Haidong, the most expensive player on the mainland - are also aces in the pack for Kwok.

Among the star players, Hong Kong national defender Chan Chi-keung, who is set to join First Division side Happy Valley next season, is definitely Kwok's favourite.

The AFC know that the language barrier between some of the players from the west and east of the continent may be a problem so they have appointed co-ordinator Obaid Mubarak Al-Shamis from UAE to assist Kwok.

As a coach of the first Asian All-Stars side since 1972 - when a team played in the Medeka Cup - Kwok is looking forward to an even prosperous career after tonight.

'This post will help me a lot with my career. Everyone wants to coach an All-Stars team which represents a continent, or even the world,' said Kwok, an AFC technical director.

'It means a lot to me, especially as this is an historic moment as Hong Kong has just reunified with the motherland.' Kwok is also a firm believer in the future of Hong Kong.

'Many people don't want a change because everything has been going so well. But it doesn't mean that change is not good,' he said, which also explains why he always want to improve himself even though he has already acquired challenging positions with the HKSI, the national team and the AFC.

Whatever the future holds, Kwok knows that tonight's game in front of a packed Hong Kong Stadium crowd, is his chance to prove to worth to a massive audience.