Coach Andy Cheung leaving South China 'on good terms'
Coach insists decision to part ways with Caroliners was for personal reasons and not due to failure to reach AFC Champions League
Andy Cheung Po-chun said his decision to quit as head coach of South China was not due to the club's failure to qualify for the Asian Champions League - and insisted that he was leaving on good terms with the club and its boss, Steven Lo Kit-sing.
"I'm leaving due to personal reasons and it has nothing to do with our performance at the recent AFC Champions League qualifiers," Cheung insisted. "I'm also leaving on good terms with Mr Lo. He has supported me always."
South China in a brief statement on Monday announced Cheung had quit, and thanked him for his contribution to the club. The statement urged the players to "keep up the good work" as the season was not finished. Cheung has been replaced by his deputy, Yeung Ching-kwong.
"It was a sudden decision, a difficult one to make. I have some family problems and I have to leave," Cheung said. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity to coach this big club." Lo was unavailable for comment.
Attempting to become the first Hong Kong club to play in the Asian Champions League, South China defeated Singapore's Tampines Rovers 2-1 before losing 3-0 in the second round of qualifying against Thailand's Chonburi FC. South China have also struggled in the First Division at home, trailing leaders Kitchee by 10 points. Last Saturday the Caroliners - defending champions - struggled to beat bottom-placed team Yokohama FC and needed two stoppage-time goals to win 3-1.
But Cheung was adamant South China and Lo were pleased with the progress made this season. "Mr Lo was happy. We were the first local club to play in these qualifiers and I think we acquitted ourselves well," said Cheung, who only joined South China from relegated Tai Po at the start of this season.
Cheung did not discount returning in a coaching capacity next season when the new professional Hong Kong Premier League gets under way.
"I would like to be involved. My first task is now to sort out my problems and then try to improve as a coach. I'm looking at going outside Hong Kong, somewhere in Asia, to learn more about the game," Cheung said.
"I hope I can return next season when the new professional league starts in Hong Kong, and who knows, maybe even for South China." Following their failure in the Asian Champions League, South China will now start their regional campaign in the AFC Cup - the second-tier club championship - along with rivals Kitchee. They host Vissai Ninh Binh FC of Vietnam in their opening group G match at Hong Kong Stadium on February 26. The group also features Yangon United of Myanmar and Kelantan of Malaysia.