How Hong Kong football team hopes to boost public image after a week of negative headlines
The disclosure that the newly opened Kitchee Centre is set to close to make way for a housing development, and five Pegasus players being arrested over an alleged match-fixing scandal hit the local game last week
When coach Kim Pan-gon sends out his Hong Kong charges against Singapore in an international friendly at Mong Kok Stadium on Tuesday, he will be looking for not just a result but a spirited performance to infuse the local game with some much-needed positive energy.
Football in Hong Kong reached a low tide with two distasteful incidents last week – the disclosure that the newly opened Kitchee Centre is set to be closed by the government to make way for a housing development and five Pegasus players, including a former Hong Kong Footballer of the Year, being arrested over an alleged match-fixing scandal.
“There is no doubt the two incidents hit the sport hard,” said Kim, who is preparing his squad for next month’s EAFF East Asian Cup qualifiers which also features also North Korea, Guam and Taiwan.
“There have been many negative reports around and we have to get rid of them. The best way to do this is to bring back the confidence of Hong Kong people through the performance of the team.
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“Whenever the Hong Kong team do well on the international stage, it is a big boost of the sport, just like what happened last year when we enjoyed great success in the World Cup qualifiers. We want to change it from negative to positive.”
Hong Kong are looking to extend a recent run of form following back-to-back friendly wins over Cambodia, although Kim may make some changes following last week’s 2-0 victory in Phnom Penh with winger Lee Hong-lim set to start at leftback and midfielder Lam Ka-wai in a more advanced forward position.
“I need to try more players in different roles as it will be very demanding at the East Asian Cup where we will have to play three matches in seven days,” said Kim, with the qualifiers to be played in Hong Kong.
Singapore are currently 155th in the Fifa rankings,13 places behind Hong Kong, who have only lost once to the team from the Lion City in six meetings over the last decade including a 2-1 win at home when the side’s last met in a friendly in 2014.
Watch: Hong Kong v Cambodia highlights