... and risk making city an international laughing stock

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am

Soccer advertises itself, with some justification, as 'the world game'. It goes from strength to strength around the globe, from impoverished developing countries where few can afford new boots to strongholds of rival sports, such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand, who have all qualified for the World Cup finals in South Africa in June. Talent knows no boundaries, as evidenced by the global roll call of star players in the English Premier League and other top European leagues. Passports also count for nothing in the head hunting of big-name managers for national and club teams.

Language is therefore no barrier. If there was a gap in Italian Fabio Capello's CV when he took over as manager of England, it was his command of English. Guus Hiddink's 'Dutch' English did not prevent him taking Australia to the last World Cup finals, and he would not have understood much more than nyet when he was appointed to guide Russia's campaign to qualify for the next.

So what could the Hong Kong Football Association have been thinking when it advertised for a new head coach - to be responsible for preparing the city's team for the 2014 World Cup qualifying rounds - who is fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, thus effectively ruling out all but local candidates? It would be funny but for the fact it represents a view of the game from another planet. We are all for giving opportunities to local talent and due recognition to credentials and experience. But imposing unnecessary limitations can work to the city's competitive disadvantage as an international city - and in the world game. The real joke is that if the advertisement had unearthed a Chinese-speaking mentor who got results, he would soon be made an offer he could not refuse by a foreign team that could not care less that he did not speak Italian, German, Spanish or even English.

Ridicule prompted the swift removal of the language requirements from the advertisement. Otherwise the bungle might have tested the faith of the sport's most passionate local fans. It is good to know that we are no longer tilting the playing field against the likes of legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.