Ho picks himself off scrap heap to earn international call-up
Just two seasons ago, goalkeeper Ho Kwok-chuen was worried his days in top-flight domestic football were numbered, but now things have improved so much he is in the frame to make his international debut for Hong Kong this weekend.
The 30-year-old Citizen goalkeeper is one of 18 players selected for the squad to meet East Timor in the first round of the 2010 World Cup Asian zone qualifiers in Bali, Indonesia, on Sunday.
But back in 2005, Ho was dumped by South China and ended up playing for amateur side Football Club.
'I was the number three goalkeeper with the Caroliners when we finished second-last in the league that season, and were supposed to go down the Second Division,' said Ho at his first training session with the Hong Kong team at Siu Sai Wan. 'Although a special resolution saved the club from demotion, I did not get a new contract and at that time, I thought I may never play top-flight football again.'
But Ho's fortunes took a positive turn thanks to the help of local football enthusiast Lam Tai-fai.
'After the new season started, I was still out of a job,' Ho said. 'But Lam footed the bill to bring some Chinese players to Club and I was one of them.'
Ho made the most of the opportunity and, although Football Club went down to the Second Division last season, his skills between the posts caught the eyes of Citizen, who signed him in the summer. And after six rounds of competition, Citizen sit on top of the league table with 11 points.
Now Ho is celebrating his first call-up to the Hong Kong team.
'I have only played for the Olympic squad before, never at senior level,' said Ho, who has played all six matches for Citizen so far and conceded just five goals. Only South China goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui has a comparable goals-against tally in the league.
'I am very happy that my effort has been recognised, and I would also thank my teammates.'