Kim Pan-gon tells locals to work hard or lose out to naturalised talent
Hong Kong coach says there is a long line of naturalised players waiting for a chance
Hong Kong soccer coach Kim Pan-gon warned home-grown players to work harder or their opportunities would be taken by the influx of naturalised players.
The South Korean is considering three over-age players for the under-23 squad for September's Asian Games in Incheon, and many of the foreigners, who qualify having taken up HKSAR passports, have caught Kim's eye.
Wisdom Agbo, Andy Nagelein, Festus Baise, Christian Annan and Jaimes McKee are all vying for selection before Hong Kong finalise their 20-member squad at the end of the month.
"The home-grown players must treasure their opportunities as they have been groomed as the next generation for Hong Kong," said Kim after watching his side lose 3-1 to Kitchee in a training match at Shek Kip Mei yesterday.
"I was a bit disappointed today as some of the players have dropped their level considerably after returning from a training camp in Guangdong last month. They did very well during the camp but, unfortunately, have failed to maintain the standard.
"The Asian Games is our target this year and the players must take it seriously. There are more naturalised players in Hong Kong and if our younger ones do not work hard, they won't be given the chance."
In fact, more foreigners are in line to represent Hong Kong after fulfilling the seven-year residency requirement. Kitchee's trio of Alex Akande, Paulo Carreiro and Helio Goncalves will all be home players this year.
Kim was also concerned his charges would not get sufficient training with their respective clubs because many teams have yet to start their preseason.
"Players need eight to 10 weeks to prepare for a major tournament, but with the Asian Games in September our clubs are just about to start their preparations for the new season. I would ask the clubs to give more opportunities to our under-23 players so they keep their form.
"That's also why I have to look at players like Agbo and Nagelein as they are in the China league, which is in its mid-season."
Hong Kong qualified for the knockout stage at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou before losing 3-0 to Oman in the round of 16 and Kim acknowledged it is a daunting task to match the performance of four years ago.
"Japan are China are always the major challengers," he said.