Territory boost chances of Games success as squad sticks together

The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) is on the right track for improving the territory's international results by retaining the present national squad for long-term training.

The move will greatly boost the territory's Asian Games campaign next year in Bangkok, Thailand.

HKFA chairman Victor Hui Chun-fui said the national squad would not be dissolved after their final World Cup qualifier against South Korea on May 28.

'We will keep most of the players, except the older ones because they will be too old for the Asian Games. Younger players will be called up,' said Hui after last night's association council meeting.

'And we hope head coach Kwok Ka-ming can stay with the side because he has been doing an excellent job.' Team manager Kwun Wing-yee had suggested keeping the squad together for regular training and more games.

'With more professional management we are now more organised, and look more like a national team. We should keep this team structure and continue training for future tournaments,' Kwun said.

The team's morale has been greatly boosted by the appointment of Kwok, the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) head coach, and that of Peter Leung Shou-chi, who became full-time team director last September.

The team's two managers, Kwun of Sing Tao and South China's Albert Hung, have paid a total of $2 million for training expenses.

These efforts paid off when the team beat Thailand 3-2 in last Sunday's World Cup Asian Group Six qualifying match in impressive style.

Hui said they would discuss with the HKSI the extension of Kwok's contract, which ends in May.

'We have set up a committee to handle the issue. We will work more closely with the HKSI over the development of our national teams at all levels, and our local coaching,' he said.

'The budget will be shared between the HKFA and the HKSI.' Meanwhile, the council have decided not to participate in May's East Asian Games in Pusan, Korea.

'There are too many competitions for our players, especially the national players, this season. It's better to drop the East Asian Games and to concentrate on the Asian Games,' Hui said.