Au keen to put his international experience to good use for club
Benjamin Wong and Kelvin Wong
South China will be inspired by the successful showing of the Hong Kong national team in the East Asian Football Championship when they resume domestic action tonight.
Caroliners striker Au Wai-lun picked up the leading scorer award in the EAFC qualifying tournament last week and said he came in for some good-natured ribbing from his club colleagues on his return to training.
All local play was suspended for two weeks while the SAR hosted the tournament.
'They were happy to see us do well internationally, and realise we do have the abilities to perform on a big stage. They want to do the same for South China,' Au said as he and South China prepared to face Club in tonight's Challenge Shield first-round tie.
'All of us really want the Shield, as well as the upcoming FA Cup. After all we are probably out of the running for the league title.' South China are seven points behind league leaders Sun Hei in the standings with just three matches to go.
Spirits in the camp appear high, though, as Au said his teammates managed to find a smile and teased him about his EAC top-scorer title.
South China team director Peter Leung Shou-chi said the match against Club is a must-win game. 'It's not like a league match. There can be no draw in a knock-out tournament like the Shield. Whether I'm confident or not is not important. We simply have to win.'
Hong Kong Football Club are second from bottom in the league table and 11 points behind the Caroliners. But South China's Brazilian defender Cristiano Cordeiro said he will not underestimate Club. 'Playing Club is always tough. They've got lots of expats who are physically strong. Playing on a wet and heavy pitch in Mongkok will be difficult for us because we like to keep the ball on the ground.'
If South China can beat Club and reach the next round, they will probably be able to field Korean attacking midfielder Kim Dae-chul. The 26-year-old Korean impressed in trials and is close to agreeing personal terms with the club.
The deal will give more muscle to his club's attack, according to Leung. He said: 'Korean players are tough, fit and have good skills. I believe he can help us because I think we are not tough enough up front.'
Kim played for Korea's Chunnam Dragons for the past two years and the team finished fifth in the 10-team K-league last season. His proposed move to South China will keep him in Hong Kong at least until the end of the season.
In the other Shield match tonight, Happy Valley take on Fukien. Valley's Cheung Sai-ho was another player who excelled for Hong Kong last week, earning the MVP award for the qualifying tournament. And like Au at South China he felt that the experience he and other club-mates learnt while representing Hong Kong in the EAFC had prompted them to work harder.
'We are training much harder after the tournament. We are asking more from ourselves because we want to keep up the good work after doing well for Hong Kong,' Cheung said.
The two matches today will be played at Mongkok Stadium. South China's game against Club will kick off at 6pm, while Happy Valley versus Fukien will start at 8pm.