PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 April, 2004, 12:00am

The General Secretary of the Hong Kong FA has been enjoying a new found interest in Hong Kong's national team after their performance in the World Cup qualifier against China.

You had hundreds of fans queuing for the autograph session with the national team during yesterday's Senior Shield matches. That must have been a good feeling?

It was. There was a very good response. I think for the players it is recognition for them and the fans enjoyed it too. It's a glimpse of the game's potential here. The team played well and the players and fans are starting to believe.

The players seemed to be having fun didn't they?

I think they enjoyed it. They respect the fans, and the good thing is it wasn't just kids. It was all ages and genders.

Are you proud to see such enthusiasm for the national team?

It's difficult to say that, with our FIFA ranking still 142 in the world, that there's too much to be proud of, but over the last year we've been developing the squad. The first phase was to avoid losing too many goals. The second phase was to try and avoid losing, to earn draws. We're still in that second phase, but this is a crucial time, because now we've started to build a real national team. They've had lots of playing opportunities. The crucial thing is to maintain the momentum and to continue the steady progress. We have to be consistent in providing the opportunities and mentally instil a stronger belief that they are not really 142nd in the world - that they are only there because of other factors.

How important is the support of the fans in developing that?

The fans can really help them believe, but together with that belief, we have to regard this as a beginning - the first chapter in our progress - rather than be satisfied with the progress we have made, we must regard this as only a start. What makes me happy is that the club owners are supporting the programme. Even though the league has been affected by the national team's programme, there have been fewer complaints than before. We need their support. We need to do this in tandem.

Do the club's understand how they can benefit from some success for the national team?

I think the way they've welcomed their players being selected is a real symbol of that. I think they can see the benefits of having their players selected.

Does the success of the autograph session change your view of how successful the game can be if it's promoted in the right way?

I won't say it's a success. Most vital is where we go from here.