Au laces up boots again for HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 September, 2004, 12:00am

Veteran South China striker Au Wai-lun will make a surprise reappearance in a Hong Kong jersey in tonight's Asian Zone World Cup qualifier against Kuwait at Siu Sai Wan Stadium.

Hong Kong coach Kenny Lai Sun-cheung announced that 34-year-old Au, one of the mainstays of the SAR teams in past years, will play his first World Cup Group Four match as Lai makes a desperate attempt to salvage what has been a disappointing campaign for the local team.

'Au Wai-lun has the depth and experience to lead our attack, but I will only use him in the second half. The whole idea is to bring him on in the second half after our other striker, Lawrence Akandu, gets tired,' said Lai.

'Au has many years' experience as a footballer and he is fit and he wants to play. We now have a decent strike force because Au is the kind of player who shields the ball well and controls the ball well. He also runs into positions to score.'

Au, who missed Hong Kong's previous three World Cup matches because he wanted to give his place to the youngsters, said he was looking forward to returning.

'I didn't play in Hong Kong's three previous matches because I had played for Hong Kong for many years and I wanted to give the younger players a chance. But after Lee Kin-wo [another veteran] played for Hong Kong, I thought I should offer my services.

'I will help out this time. I am pretty fit at the moment. I hope to do OK in the match.'

While Au returns to the SAR team for the first time in years, Lai is still worried that captain Lee Wai-man will not take his place in the heart of defence.

'He is still suffering from a knee injury and I am afraid he will not be fit in time,' said Lai. 'It's a pity because we need a player of Lee's calibre. Cheung Sai-ho will probably take over the captain's arm-band.'

Hong Kong wilted in the heat in Kuwait City in the team's previous encounter, a 4-0 win for Kuwait in June. But Lai hopes a training stint at the Qing Xin Hot Spring training base recently will pay off. The team carried out five days of training at the base and have returned all the fitter.