Kim Pan-gon rues lack of support for Hong Kong soccer squad

Training for crucial qualifier severely hampered by club-vs-country row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 5:00am

Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon is frustrated at the club-versus-country row surrounding the national team, as he tries to prepare for the opening Asian Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan early next month.

Time is running out ahead of the trip to the former Soviet Union state on February 6, but Kim still has not been able to get all of his players together for training at the one time.

Yesterday at Shek Kip Mei Sports Ground, there were only 14 of the 30-man training squad present for the only training match prior to their trip.

"It makes it very difficult for me," the caretaker coach said. "I want to get all my players to prepare well but the real situation does not allow me to do so.

"I know there is always a club-versus-country situation as it happens everywhere in the world. But it seems it is quite serious in Hong Kong. In fact, in my country South Korea, it is always the country comes first."

But Kim, who has been in Hong Kong for more than a decade from a club player to national team coach, admits: "There is no use in me continuing to complain. It won't help.

"I have to think and work positively and do my best under these circumstances. I can say the team is making progress, although not in the most desirable way and if the players can do the same, think and work positively, we may be able to pull off some surprises in Uzbekistan."

Kim said he would finalise his 20-member squad after today's training match against Kitchee.

"I can't make too many changes because I haven't had enough chances to get all the players together," he said. "I have to use most of the players who understand each other well from the past few internationals."

Speedy striker Godfred Karikari, who plays for China First Division side Henan, would be an automatic pick to play alongside Chan Siu-ki, but Kim admitted he had not been able to contact the Ghanaian since he went back to Africa when the mainland season finished in November.