Three games in seven days threatens players’ safety: Hong Kong soccer coach slams East Asian Championship organisers

Kim Pan-gon hits out at tight scheduling for the four-team qualifiers, with just three substitutions allowed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 6:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 6:43pm

Hong Kong head coach Kim Pan-gon has slammed organisers of the East Asian Championship for ignoring players’ health and safety with tight scheduling of qualifying matches.

The four-team second round of qualifying kicks off on Sunday in Hong Kong with the hosts facing Guam and North Korea taking on Taiwan. The tournament ends on November 14.

Only the winners will reach the finals next year and each team will have to play three matches in seven days using a small squad of 20 players.

“They are sitting in the office and never consider the players safety as it is very easy for the players to get injured under such a tight playing schedule,” said the Hong Kong coach. “I have asked them to extend the playing period or allow more substitutions during a game as the tournament is only an international friendly class under Fifa. But all my recommendations were rejected.

“Many of our players are already heavily involved in domestic competitions and it’s not easy for them to play international games mid-season.”

Fifa allows a maximum of six substitutions during international friendly games but the EAFF will maintain three changes for the Hong Kong qualifiers.

Kim, however, said the team would have to forget about the problems and focus on finishing top of the group and reach next year’s finals against China, Japan and South Korea.

Watch: North Korea’s Pak Kwang-ryong in action for Lausanne-Sport

“We have to score good results in the first two games against Guam and Taiwan before taking on favourites North Korea,” said the coach. “The Koreans have changed their head coach after failing to reach the last 12 in the regional World Cup qualification and the new coach will take this tournament very seriously.”

It is reported that Norwegian Jorn Andersen, North Korea’s new coach, would field his strongest squad in Hong Kong led by towering centre forward Pak Kwang-ryong, who plays for seven-time Swiss champions FC Lausanne-Sport.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong team received a good news ahead of their first match against Guam with Glory Sky agreeing to continue its sponsorship of the team as they prepare for the tournament and next year’s Asian Cup qualifying tournament.