Hong Kong to field only domestic soccer players for Asian Games in South Korea
Naturalised talent Wisdom Agbo and Andy Nagelein will miss out on the Incheon event
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon has given up hope of using naturalised talent in his Asian Games campaign, naming a 20-strong squad consisting wholly of domestic players.
Defenders Wisdom Agbo, originally from Ghana, and Andy Nagelein, of German descent, hold Hong Kong passports and are plying their trade on the mainland, but were not released by their clubs for the Incheon tournament that kicks off in mid-September.
The Asian Games soccer competition is limited to under-23 players, but each team are allowed to field three overage competitors.
"We have had contact with their respective clubs but since the Asian Games are not under [world governing body] Fifa and their own league competitions are at a crucial stage, they could not support us," said Kim.
"Both Agbo and Nagelein fitted into our plans as overage players but we cannot use them. However, the silver lining is that upcoming players get the opportunity. In the long run, it should also help Hong Kong soccer."
Leung Kwun-chung and his younger brother, Leung Nok-hang, both playing for Yokohama FC (Hong Kong), will become the first choices in central defence with Kim selecting goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai, midfielder Ju Yingzhi and flanker Christian Annan as the overage players.
"The presence of Yapp between the posts will help stabilise the defence as the Eastern goalkeeper is the best in Hong Kong," said Kim.
"Ju proved himself with Pegasus last season with his power to read the game and vision in midfield, while Annan did a very good job in Kitchee's match against French league champions Paris Saint-Germain."
Kim had at one stage considered Pegasus defender Festus Baise but the Nigerian-born veteran, who fulfilled the seven-year residence rule last year, has yet to obtain his Hong Kong passport. "Li Ngai-hoi and Wan Chun can also play central defence," said Kim. "If these promising youngsters rise to the occasion in Incheon, they will become much more mature players."
The coach also expected Rangers striker Lam Hok-hei to shine in Incheon. "Lam can be the star of the next generation, provided he is fully committed to the game," said Kim. There will be 24 teams in the Asian Games, featuring East Asia powers such as Japan, South Korea and China as well as Middle East strongholds including United Arab Emirates, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
A draw for all the six groups will be made next month. Hong Kong qualified for the knockout stage at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou before being eliminated by Oman (3-0) in the round of 16.