Kitchee stars to put national team before Asia Trophy glamour
Kitchee's Hong Kong internationals will have to put World Cup qualifying duty ahead of the chance to take on glamour opposition in the Barclays Asia Trophy because of a clash of dates.
Having captured their first league championship in 47 years on Friday night, Kitchee won the right to represent Hong Kong in the competition against Premier League sides Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers, which will be held here for the second time this summer.
But the tournament takes place at Hong Kong Stadium on July 27 and July 30, while Hong Kong face Saudi Arabia on July 28 in the second leg of a 2014 World Cup Asian zone qualifier. The first leg will be held in the Middle East on July 23.
'I think every player wants to play against the three Premier league sides, no doubt about it,' admitted Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee (pictured). 'This is going to be a great learning opportunity and you won't have too many opportunities of this kind in your career as a player from Hong Kong.
'However, we also know the importance of the World Cup qualifiers because you are representing Hong Kong. And I think we will have to follow the club's decision as the Hong Kong team is always our top priority.'
Kitchee president Ken Ng Kin said the club would demand their players put the World Cup qualifier first.
'It is important for the clubs to support the national team,' said Ng. 'Any player who is being called up by the national team will have to put the World Cup qualifiers as their top priority. The Asia Trophy is important, but it is only an exhibition event. After all, we can get some top guest players to replace our Hong Kong team members which may give the fans more to watch.'
Lo, who was instrumental for Kitchee this season, is a regular member of the Hong Kong team, along with fast-improving attacking midfielder Lam Ka-wai and forward Chu Siu-ki. Another forward, Cheng Siu-wai, and midfielder Gao Wen may also catch the selectors' eyes.
Most of the Hong Kong team play for South China, but since they are not in the Asia Trophy, their players will not face the same problem.
Hong Kong Football Association general secretary Vincent Yuen Man-chuen said it had asked the Asian Football Confederation to swap the dates of the qualifier so that it would have less impact on the Asia Trophy, but the request was denied.
'The second leg will now be held at Siu Sai Wan Stadium, one day after the first day of the Asia Trophy,' said Yuen. 'The English Premier League has been informed of the clash of dates from the beginning and they understand the situation well. We asked the AFC to start the home leg on July 23, and offered to travel to Saudi Arabia for the return match on July 28, but it was turned down.'
Yuen said the association had already asked Hong Kong's interim coach, Tsang Wai-chung, about his squad for the games.
In the last World Cup qualifiers, Saudi Arabia lost the AFC play-off to neighbours Bahrain, while Hong Kong were eliminated 3-0 on aggregate by Turkmenistan in the second round.