South China lower sights in coach hunt
South China have been forced to lower their sights for a new head coach after candidates in Germany demanded more than HK$10 million.
Following a disappointing season where they surrendered the First Division League title and made an early exit from the AFC Cup, the domestic powerhouses are desperate to revive their fortunes with an overseas head coach for the new season.
'We have approached several coaches in the Bundesliga, but I don't think any club in Hong Kong can afford their salary,' team convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing (pictured) said. 'Even if they are not working for the top teams in the top flight, they still ask for over HK$10 million a season.
'This does not include wages for their backroom staff, their accommodation and transport expenses and money for their tax bill. This is just out of a team's budget.'
But Lo insisted the team's pursuit of an overseas coach would continue, although it may now target the lower divisions.
'We have to be realistic in terms of budget,' he said. 'We have now identified two candidates in the German Second Division and they are both of high quality. Negotiations are going on and we hope to sort out the details as soon as possible.
'We have also approached coaches from South Korea and Japan and if the deal with the Germans falls through, we will have some good candidates to take over the team next season. If everything goes to plan, we can announce the new coach before the end of this month.'
South China were coached by Chan Ho-yin in the second half of the season following the sudden departure of South Korean Kim Pan-gon in December due to health problems.
The team have been criticised for a lack of physical fitness in defence and attacking options up front.
They lost to Citizen in the Senior Shield final under Chan, a disastrous result that cost them a chance to book a place in next year's AFC Cup.
They were then eliminated in the group stages of the AFC Cup, having reached the semi-finals two seasons ago. Their league title defeat to rivals Kitchee was another hammer blow after ruling the roost in the previous four seasons.
Even striker Mateja Kezman suggested before his departure the South China should employ coaches from Europe where the standards are far higher if the team wanted success in Asia.
'We know the budget for next season will be increased significantly to hire an overseas coach,' Lo said. 'But we are determined to do so in order to improve our results.'
While Chan will stay on as one of the coaches next season, former Hong Kong international Liu Chun-fai has quit as assistant team manager to become acting Hong Kong team head coach.
Liu left with the Hong Kong Olympic squad yesterday for Sunday's Asian zone qualifying round match against Uzbekistan. Liu, who joined South China from Citizen in 2008, will also take care of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign where Hong Kong will meet Saudi Arabia in a two-leg second-round encounter next month.
The Hong Kong Football Association is also looking for an overseas coach to take charge of the national team under the government's Phoenix Project, but he is not expected to arrive in Hong Kong until September.