Kim Pan-gon handed second stint as Hong Kong soccer coach

South Korean returns as Hong Kong coach and is given six months to show what he can do

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:13am

Academy coach Kim Pan-gon has been given six months to prove his worth after taking charge of the Hong Kong team for the second time in three years.

The South Korean was handed the job by the Hong Kong Football Association (HFKA) after Australian Ernie Merrick controversially parted ways with the team after a defeat to Malaysia in an international friendly last month.

"We have reached a deal with Kim and he will be doubling up in the head coach job for six months," HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said yesterday. "We will need to conduct an open recruitment for the crucial post soon because it is set up under the government's Phoenix Project.

"If Kim is interested in a long-term role, he can apply as well as any qualified person [can do]."

Kim had the role on a part-time basis in 2009 when he was on loan from his club, South China. He decided not to renew his contract the following year to focus on his club duties.

"My passion is with youth development, but if Hong Kong needs me I have no hesitation in helping the senior squad," said Kim. "I have been here for 12 years - from a player at club level to the Hong Kong team head coach.

"I know the sport here well enough and am able to communicate with the players and other people involved. This always helps," he said.

During his first reign, he led Hong Kong to the gold medal at the 2009 East Asian Games. In the summer of the same year, South China, who played under the name of Hong Kong, qualified for the final of the 2010 East Asian Football Championship.

Kim led his first official practice with the 28-member squad at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday as they prepare for their return international friendly against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur next week.

Hong Kong were thrashed 3-0 at home three weeks ago, a result that sealed Merrick's fate. One of Kim's notable selections was South China centre-half Lee Chi-ho, who quit international duty before the Malaysia match because he was "not happy" with Merrick's coaching style.

"We have to look forward," said Lee. "I trust Kim and when he rang me last week to ask if I would rejoin the team, I immediately said yes."

While Lee is confident Hong Kong can win the return fixture, the real challenge will not come until next month's East Asian Championship qualifiers as hosts Hong Kong will be up against Australia, North Korea, Taiwan and Guam. Only one team will qualify for next year's tournament against regional giants South Korea, Japan and China.