Hong Kong's preparations for the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers have received a blow with leading club Kitchee at odds with the national team management over training schedules.
HK had their first practice for the competition yesterday, but with less than a month before they kick off their campaign away to Uzbekistan, none of the four Kitchee players in the squad attended. Fullback Lo Kwan-yee and midfielders Huang Yang, Chu Siu-ki and Chan Man-fai, all from the two-time defending league champions, form the backbone of the squad.
Hong Kong caretaker coach Kim Pan-gon wants to train with the squad twice a week, but Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin insisted that was too much.
"We also need time to work with our own players because our team is undergoing a change of playing style," he said. "Our head coach has discussed the problems with Kim.
"We will continue to support the Hong Kong team and will try our best to release our players once a week for their practice." Ng said Kitchee would release their players for today's session.
Kim said he was still trying to convince clubs to support his training plan.
"We are not a high-level international team and do not have too many overseas competition chances nor international friendlies," he said.
"Our only strong point is to get the players together and train regularly. If not, we are nothing and cannot develop.
"Even if the HKFA pays a high salary to hire a coach but then doesn't give him sufficient training time, it's useless."
Kim is trying to get back Godfred Karikari for the qualifiers. The striker, who plays for Henan Jianye in the Chinese Super League, is believed to be in his native country Ghana recovering from a knee injury.
Hong Kong also play host Vietnam in March.