Andy Naegelein has returned to the city to prepare for Hong Kong's two Asian Cup qualifying soccer matches this month, keen to put behind him a disappointing season on the mainland.
The hard-working midfielder turned up for national team practice at Po Kong Village Road Park on Tuesday, just three days after his Chinese First Division side Guizhou Zhicheng were relegated to the Second Division.
"It's a pity the team went down," said Naegelein, who has a German father and a Hong Kong mother. "I joined them in the second half of the season when they only had six points. Although we did a good job and finished with 26 points, we could not avoid the drop."
Of the 27-member Hong Kong training squad, five have been playing across the border, all in the First Division, but their fortunes varied. Godfred Karikari and Wisdom Agbo of Henan Construction and Harbin Yiteng, respectively, helped their clubs win promotion to the Chinese Super League, while Chan Siu-ki and Leung Chun-pong helped Guangdong Sunray Cave finish third, just missing promotion.
The latter four were expected to return to Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Naegelein's contract with Guizhou is over and he is now looking for a long-term deal. "I am 32 and want to have a longer contract," he said. "I have offers from Super League and First Division clubs and even teams from Germany, but I want to stay in Asia. We'll see. But my priority is playing for Hong Kong as there are two important matches ahead and I want to contribute. That's why I came back immediately after the Chinese season."
Coach Kim Pan-gon said Naegelein was a quality player despite his limited international exposure. Naegelein only made his debut for Hong Kong against visiting United Arab Emirates in an Asian Cup qualifier last month. "He is useful in set pieces and can also fit in as a midfielder and central defender," said Kim.
Hong Kong will meet the UAE in Abu Dhabi next Friday before flying back to entertain Uzbekistan on November 19. They need to get points in both games before meeting Vietnam in their last match in group E early next year if they want to qualify for the 2015 finals in Australia.