Coaches call on HK players to show some pride

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2006, 12:00am

Kwok, Lai in agreement on where local game is going wrong

Hong Kong managers past and present have called for a greater sense of pride in the Bauhinia badge and for more co-operation between clubs and the FA on national-team matters.

Former national boss Kwok Ka-ming and incumbent Kenny Lai Sun-cheung expressed exasperation at the recent club-versus-country tension, with the latest development seeing the squad for tomorrow's crunch Asian Cup clash in Uzbekistan reduced to 18 players after the withdrawal of South China's Man Pei-tak.

'We definitely don't have enough players,' said Lai before his team boarded a flight to Beijing en route to Tashkent yesterday.

Hong Kong had already been dealt a blow by the absence of defender Ng Wai-chiu, who was the focus of controversy at the weekend when he played for his mainland club Shanghai Shenhua rather than for Hong Kong in a double bill featuring both sides at Hong Kong Stadium.

Lai has been angered by the lack of commitment shown by some of his players, starting with Ng, one of the brightest young local talents. Ng's preference for Shenhua over the national side appears to have brought down the curtain down on his international career.

Ng had previously turned down an offer to play for the Hong Kong team against Singapore in their last warm-up game before the Asian Cup group F fixture, saying he was not feeling '100 per cent'.

But he played one of his best games to date on the same night Hong Kong lost 2-1 to Singapore, earning the man of the match award after being on the field for more than an hour for the Chinese club side.

The move infuriated Lai who said: 'We cannot force Ng Wai-chiu to play for Hong Kong. He made his decision not to play for Hong Kong and there's nothing we can do about it. I don't know whether Ng Wai-chiu will play for Hong Kong again. That's not for me to decide.'

The Hong Kong team were already reeling from Kitchee's refusal to release any of their players for the Asian Cup qualifier because they wanted to be at full strength in Saturday's friendly against Shenhua.

Kwok said the national team should work more closely with senior clubs.

'We always have had this problem. It exists all over the world. We had the famous case with Wayne Rooney going to this year's World Cup when [manager] Alex Ferguson preferred him to stay at home,' Kwok said.

Hong Kong and Uzbekistan are on three points after two matches, three behind group F leaders Qatar with Bangladesh pointless.