Hong Kong miss out on Asian Games hockey berth for first time in two decades
Full of inexperienced players, the side loses to Taiwan for their fourth straight defeat at a qualifying tournament in Bangladesh
Hong Kong will not be sending a men's hockey squad to the Asian Games for the first time in two decades after they slipped to their fourth successive defeat in a qualifying tournament in Dhaka, Bangladesh, losing 6-2 to Taiwan on Saturday.
"It is really disappointing that we will not be going to the Asian Games in Incheon in September," said Sarinder Dillon, president of the Hong Kong Hockey Association. "What can you do? We had to send a second-string side for the qualifiers due to eligibility issues."
Under new eligibility requirements for the Asian Games - following International Olympic Council guidelines - athletes need to hold the passport of the country they represent. This meant at least eight regular players missing out.
Worsening the selection headache has been the retirement of key players such as Farooq Saeed, the Ali brothers Asghar, Akbar and Asif, and Swalkih Mohammed. Hong Kong sent a young team mostly made up of inexperienced locals.
"We were forced to send a green and very inexperienced team. Considering the situation, they did well but their lack of big-match experience showed," said Dillon. "It is sad considering that since 1962, when we first sent a team to the Asian Games, we have missed out only twice in 1994 and 1974."
At the 1994 Hiroshima Games, the Hong Kong Olympic Committee turned down hockey's request to send a team (a qualifying system was only introduced in 2006) because the sport had fared badly in Beijing in 1990.
In 1974 (Teheran), hockey didn't send a team because the association didn't have funds.
The youngest of the four Ali brothers, Arif marked his 100th international for Hong Kong by scoring both goals in yesterday's loss, one a deflection and the other from a penalty corner, but couldn't lift the side.
"A number of players were still struggling from the ill-effects of a stomach bug and didn't perform to their best," said team manager Eddie Leung.