Hong Kong coach Liu Chun-fai wants club support ahead of Guangdong Interport Cup

Only 17 players from the 30-strong preliminary squad turn up for their first training session

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 December, 2016, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 December, 2016, 10:56pm

Coach Liu Chun-fai called for the support of clubs as Hong Kong kicked off their preparations for next week’s annual Interport Cup against Guangdong.

The provisional team, made up mostly of up-and-coming players, had their first practise session at Shek Mun Kitchee Centre on Thursday but almost half of the 30-strong squad failed to show up.

“I know it’s difficult for the clubs as we are now in mid-season with a hectic playing schedule while the Interport Cup involves two matches, home and away,” said the coach. “But the annual cup tournament is the best opportunity for the young players to prove themselves against tough opponents so that they can catch the eye of selectors and get the chance to play for the senior team.

“We need the co-operation of the clubs so that we can send the best players.”

Only 17 players turned up for the opening session. Kitchee, Eastern, Kwoon Chung Southern and Wofoo Tai Po, all of whom feature in the Senior Shield semi-finals over the Christmas holidays, failed to send their players.

Liu, said he was unaware of clubs refusing outright to send their players for training but knew of three – Lee Man Rangers’ Lai Yiu-cheong and Chiu Yu-ming, and South China’s Andrew Russell – who asked for exemptions because of injury.

Hong Kong will play the first leg at the People’s Stadium in Guangzhou on the New Year’s Day before hosting the mainlanders at Hong Kong Stadium four days later.

The mainlanders lifted the cup last year after a 5-4 on aggregate result. Hong Kong were held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg at home and were twice leading their opponents by two goals when they played in Guangzhou, only for the hosts to come back strongly and win 4-3.

“Guangdong are always a strong side and although they haven’t named their final 20-member squad, they have included some players from China Super League champions Evergrande,” said the coach. “We failed to close out the game last year despite twice going into the lead in Guangzhou and it was a good lesson for the young lads.”

Hong Kong will also finalise their squad next week and those selected will need to prove if they are good enough to play in the 2017 Asia Cup qualifiers, which kick off in March and serves as the most important tournament for Hong Kong next year.