Surprise welcome: soccer fans give Hong Kong team and coach Kim Pan-gon a warm reception

South Korean manager is stunned to see supporters seeking autographs and photos despite their 2-0 loss in Qatar, which ended their World Cup qualifying campaign

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:49am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 1:48am

Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon was surprised to see fans at Chek Lap Kok to welcome home a defeated team on Friday after their loss in Qatar on Thursday.

More than 20 fans, many of whom wore the Hong Kong team jersey, asked for autographs and photos with Kim and the players despite their 2-0 defeat in Doha, which ended Hong Kong’s hopes of reaching the next stage in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

“We did not deserve this as we lost the game and are out of the tournament,” said Kim.

“But, of course, I am happy to see their support because it also proves the fans are always with you as long as you give your best.

We did not deserve this as we lost the game and are out of the tournament ... But, of course, I am happy to see their support
Kim Pan-gon

“Nevertheless the World Cup qualifiers are over and we have to accept that. Our next target will be the Asian Cup qualification and we have to start our preparations soon.”

Having finished third in group C, Hong Kong will be able to advance to the third round of qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. A draw for the 24 teams will be held next month.

With a 12-month period of preparation ahead, Kim challenged the younger generation of players to strive for selection as the South Korean is looking for more new blood to inject into the squad and not just rely on naturalised players.

Of the 11 players who started against Qatar, seven of them were naturalised players, including two debutants, defenders Andy Russell and Roberto Affonso Junior, who only obtained their Hong Kong passports recently after residing in the city for more than than seven years.

Kim, however, was not totally satisfied with the naturalised players, saying he had expected more from them.

“We need players who can change the game, but apparently they failed against Qatar,” he said. “If they could not do the job properly, why don’t we give the opportunity to younger players.

“But the younger players must also prove themselves to me. They need to raise their game, be more mobile, more dynamic on the field, which requires better fitness. They must also get regular appearances at club level to maintain a consistent performance.

“We will sit down soon and analyse our performance in this qualification tournament before we kick off the next campaign with a better and stronger Hong Kong team.”

Hong Kong is preparing for the second round of the East Asian Cup Championship in November, which can serve as a build-up for the Asian Cup qualification. The East Asian tournament features Hong Kong, North Korea, Taiwan and one team from the first round. The winners will meet South Korea, Japan and China in the final.