'Missing' Chan Siu-ki back training with Hong Kong national team
Despite rumours that he no longer wanted to turn out for the national side, Sunray Cave striker makes a reappearance in training
Chan Siu-ki returned to national team training yesterday, refuting rumours that he did not want to play for the side and lifting their hopes for the East Asian Cup qualifiers, which start in Hong Kong in 10 days' time.
Chan, who now plays for the China First Division side Sunray Cave, ended weeks of speculation about his whereabouts after he failed to respond to a call from then coach Ernie Merrick for an international match against Malaysia last month.
"As far as I understand, my club informed the Hong Kong Football Association about an injury which made me unavailable for that match," said Chan, who turned up at the team's practice at Tsing Yi Northeast Park for the first time since joining the mainland side in July.
"I don't know why there were rumours that I did not want to play for the Hong Kong team."
Two South China central defenders, Lee Chi-ho and Chan Wai-ho, were also missing from the 3-0 defeat, a result which hastened the departure of Merrick, who was replaced by the HKFA academy coach Kim Pan-gon.
Lee announced before the home match against Malaysia that he would never play for Merrick because of issues with his coaching style, while Chan Wai-ho was nursing an ankle injury.
But both players featured in the return match in Malaysia last week as Hong Kong emerged with a 1-1 draw. Lee said he changed his mind after Kim was appointed as the caretaker coach, while Chan Wai-ho recovered from his injury.
Chan Siu-ki, 27, who has scored 32 goals for Hong Kong, also withdrew from the representative team in May before the friendly against Singapore, citing "personal reasons".
His contract with South China, where he was one of the highest-paid local players, was terminated after details of his personal life were splashed across newspapers.
Now he is back to help Hong Kong in the East Asian Cup qualifiers, starting against Guam at Mong Kok Stadium on December 1. Hong Kong will also play Australia, North Korea and Taiwan in the nine-day tournament.
"I am not 100 per cent fit as I don't have any systematic training after the mainland season ended last month," Chan said. "But I will try to do my best for the team. I may need to sit on the bench for the first two matches before I become fully fit."
Chan has fond memories of the 2010 East Asian Cup tournament after scoring four goals in a 12-0 thrashing of Guam to help Hong Kong edge out North Korea on goal difference and make the finals. They finished fourth behind China, South Korea and Japan.
Coach Kim is concerned about their preparation as all six Kitchee players and five from Citizen were missing from yesterday's session. "We can't use the full squad because it clashes with domestic competitions," Kim said. "We have a difficult preparation as we do not have much time."
Citizen will play Sun Hei in the second leg of the Senior Shield second round tomorrow, while Kitchee play South China on Sunday. "I need to say sorry to South China as we went through a demanding conditioning training today, which made the players very tired," Kim said. "But we have to do this, as North Korea and Australia are both tough teams."