English coach turns down HK job offer
The number one candidate to help reform local soccer and the Hong Kong team's fortunes has turned down the job, forcing the Hong Kong Football Association to continue a worldwide search.
Veteran English coach Brian Eastick spent six days in Hong Kong late last month after being recommended by a headhunting company and was then given a week to consider the Hong Kong team job.
Eastick, who was England Under-20 team manager in this summer's World Cup in Colombia and assistant to Stuart Pearce with the Under-21s, watched Hong Kong's Senior Shield first-round match between TSW Pegasus and Kitchee and also had a brief coaching session with First Division club Sapling, comprising mainly Hong Kong U-21s.
But it appears that a secure job for the 60-year-old at the English FA won over the option of the challenging one in Hong Kong, a HKFA source said. 'He is already 60 and his job with the [English] Football Association is pretty much secured,' the source said. 'He may think it's too risky if he chooses to come to a new environment at this time of his life.
'He is an experienced coach and fits our requirements. However, there is nothing we can do about it if he does not want to come.
'But we are sure there are other people who can do the job, and maybe we have to be a bit more patient.'
HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak, who heads a five-member selection panel for the recruitment, was diplomatic when asked about Eastick's decision.
'We are looking for a new Hong Kong team coach and the process is still ongoing,' he said yesterday. 'Eastick is one of the candidates, perhaps the best, but there are also other well qualified coaches from overseas for the job. We will keep bringing in people for interviews.'
Leung reiterated the importance of getting the right person, not just for helping lift the Hong Kong team's ranking, but also for the long-term development of the sport.
'The ideal candidate will have the mission of helping us develop the sport on a long-term basis through setting up a good infrastructure in coaching and grass roots development,' he said. 'It's not an easy job as it involves hard work and commitment over a long period.
'The Hong Kong team will only be one part of his job responsibility, as we don't have too many matches a year. We need someone who can help shape the future of the sport.'
Hong Kong, who won the four-team Long Teng Cup in Taiwan last week, are ranked 156 in the world, their worst since 2008.
The new Hong Kong team coach, along with a chief executive to head the HKFA, is one of the main components of the government's Project Phoenix - a comprehensive plan to revive the city's soccer. The project will give the HKFA financial assistance to fill the two top jobs.
Jonathan McKinley, Hong Kong's deputy secretary for home affairs, said he had no knowledge of Eastick's decision. 'It is the responsibility of the HKFA to appoint their new team coach,' he said.
'But we know it is not easy to get the right people, especially in a team sport where you need all the chemicals together to make it work.'
Former South China coach Kim Pan-gon last week expressed an interest in returning to Hong Kong for the job. The South Korean was also Hong Kong coach during his time with the Caroliners.
Kim led the Hong Kong team to the 2010 East Asian Football Championship finals in Tokyo, where they lost all three matches, but the team won the 2009 East Asian Games tournament as hosts. He left South China last December after they lost 4-3 to Kitchee in the league.
Leung said that Kim's case, as with those of other applicants, would be handled by the headhunting company, which would make another recommendation to the HKFA.
Hong Kong's top job is worth more than this amount in HK$ per year