Timing of overseas trip comes under fire
A PROPOSED trip next month to Penang, Malaysia, as preparation for October's Asian Games has come under strong criticism from a leading official.
HKFA vice chairman Fred Ng Chi-keung said the 11-day one-off trip from July 28 would be far too early before the Hiroshima Games to have any beneficial effect on the 24-strong squad.
''What's the point of going for overseas training and becoming fit for a moment only to taper off again in a few weeks? We should go on an overseas trip a few weeks before the actual tournament and not three months before on a one-off trip,'' said Ng.
Hong Kong have been handed a tough draw in Group D as they face tournament favourites, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Nepal. Saudi Arabia have qualified for the World Cup finals in the United States this month while Kuwait played in the finals of the biggest soccer tournament back in 1982 in Spain.
''The HKFA are in a healthy financial state and although the draw looks an unenviable task, we can still properly prepare for the Games. If we prepare well, we have a better chance of qualifying for the next round,'' said Ng.
There are 22 men's teams competing in the Asian Games and only winners of the five groups and the best three runners-up, decided by the AFC, will advance to the knock-out quarter-finals.
Because the territory would virtually have to beat either Saudi Arabia or Kuwait to have any real chance of going through to the next stage - and for that matter winning a medal - the territory's task looks beyond them.
But Ng said: ''The HKFA have made so much money we could properly prepare for it. It would be wise to go to either China or South Korea before the Games.'' Last month, the HKFA announced record gate receipts for the just concluded season. More than $30 million was collected with receipts more than doubling from the previous season.
A HKFA spokesman said the main reason why July training in Penang was chosen was because most of the senior clubs would be busy going on their own club trips preparing for the new season and July seemed the only time available to get the Asian Games squad together for a period of time.
Meanwhile, South China are planning to sign two more expatriate players, and take their foreign players' list to eight.
The two players are former Happy Valley centre forward Kris Trajanovski and central defender Steve Terry from Bristol City.
The 22-year-old Australian born Croatian Trajanovski had a short spell with Happy Valley in the 1992-93 season. He came to the territory with midfielder David Clarkson, just signed with South China, and helped the team escape relegation.
However, Trajanovski is still under contract with Australian side Sydney Olympic - which means South China will have to buy him out.
With Marcel Liesdek and Marlon Van der Sander having left the team, the Caroliners are looking for a strong defender as a replacement. Steve Terry, former Hull City, Northampton Town and Bristol City player, is on their shopping list.
South China presently have six expats - forwards Anto Grabo and Alen Bajkusa, midfielders David Clarkson, Wu Qun Li and Song Lian Yong plus goalkeeper Werner Kooistra.