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Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

New coach Gary White remains confident he can lift Hong Kong to top 100 after shaky start

  • Hong Kong will play more international games to improve ranking and India will be one of the upcoming friendlies
  • EAFF Cup in Taiwan next month will be a tough test for White’s men
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 8:54am

New coach Gary White vowed to play more international games to realise his target of bringing Hong Kong into the world’s top 100 after a less-than-ideal beginning in his first two matches in charge.

After arriving in Hong Kong in September, the Englishman spoke to the Post about his new job with the approach of the EAFF Cup second round in Taiwan next month, the first major challenge that puts White under scrutiny.

Hong Kong are 144th in the Fifa rankings, and the first two international friendlies under the new regime returned a 1-0 home defeat by Thailand (ranked 121st) and 1-1 away draw against Indonesia (ranked 160th).

But White remains upbeat on achieving his target, planning to arrange more games for Hong Kong in the forthcoming Fifa windows.

“If the goal is to reach top 100 then my job is to move it as close to that as possible and hopefully break in to it while I am here,” said the new coach.

“But it’s difficult because there are so many games you have to play (to gain the ranking points) and we hadn’t played a game in six months before the previous game (against Thailand) and that time difference doesn’t help.

“What we have to do is to make sure we are constantly playing games and that’s the only way to get points for a higher ranking. We need a very good game schedule for the next 18 months to two years as we cannot miss another opportunity to play international games within the windows. Whenever there is a window, we have to make sure we are playing games and good games against teams that may rank higher than us because that will pick up more points.”

White said he had already planned to play India who are ranked 97th and also teams from other continents.

“I have targeted some teams for next year and India is one of them as they are in the top 100. If we want to be a top 100 team, let’s see what it looks like,” he said.

“We want to play more games but we also want to play impact games as we have to create and inspire the Hong Kong community to get behind the team so that they will come to watch us playing attractive and attacking soccer.

“My philosophy is – if I play soccer, I want to win first the foremost, and secondly I want to play attractive and exciting soccer where players are playing with freedom, where they have got a little bit more happiness about themselves. In the past, the team was always trying not to lose rather than trying to win. We have completely switched that and our mentality is let’s try to win the game. We talk about winning and don’t talk about not losing.

“A lot of the players that have been here for a long time have spoken to me individually that they love the fact we are more aggressive, more attacking, more creative as we are playing with more excitement.”

With only one team in the EAFF Cup second round in Taipei to qualify for the final in South Korea next year, White will now have to show his boys are capable of showing the quality against Taiwan, North Korea and Mongolia.

“Everyone is talking about the North Korea game but first we have to get over Taiwan,” said White, who was Taiwan’s head coach before taking over the Hong Kong job. “And it’s going to be very competitive (against Taiwan) because you know the players and you know what to expect but the environment will be very difficult because the players want to prove, the FA (Taiwan) wants to prove and the fans will be out there in a big numbers.

“We then have only one day of rest and that’s absolutely ridiculous in international level soccer as we have to play two games in three days. Even if not for the teams (North Korea will also play Mongolia in the first day), the whole tournament level will drop because everyone is tired. You are talking about competitive games and not friendlies, but it’s the way it is. This will not be an easy situation but it’s something we are looking forward to.”