Kitchee boss says standards must rise to attract fans
Ken Ng says Hong Kong must raise soccer standards to attract fans
For years local fans' support for English Premier League teams has dwarfed that for local teams. But Ken Ng Kin, the president of one of those teams, Kitchee, is sure the gulf can be bridged.
"The answer is simple. If we can raise the standard at national and club level in Hong Kong, then fans will come out to watch the games and support the teams."
As a former British colony, Hongkongers have been brought up watching English soccer - it has a tradition and history here. But Ng believed that success at regional level was the key.
It was for this reason that the HK$20 million government-sponsored Project Phoenix was introduced 18 months ago. It was supposed to revamp Hong Kong soccer from top to bottom, but it has only yielded mixed results at best. There is little evidence that standards have improved, and attendance at First Division matches is still poor.
However, one of its main aims was to improve the standards of the national team and that seems to have worked out.
Hong Kong are still in the running for a spot in the 2015 Asian Cup after a 0-0 draw away to Uzbekistan and a 1-0 win at home to Vietnam. There is a real chance they can make it to the finals in Australia in 2015.
Kitchee have also made it to the quarter-finals of the Asian Football Confederation Cup where they will play two-time winners Al-Faisaly of Jordan in September.
"If Hong Kong teams have a major chance to qualify for major finals then stadiums will be full. Success will get the fans out to watch the matches," Ng said. "If we have a better product then more people will watch.
"Of course many fans here say Manchester United is their team, but what we need to do is to get the likes of Kitchee to be their team as well."