Hong Kong coach Gary White to put emotions aside against old team, Taiwan, in EAFF Championship
- Hong Kong begin their campaign against the islanders on the opening day of the four-team tournament
- Only one team can qualify for the finals next year, joining China, Japan and South Korea
Gary White says he won’t let his emotions get the better of him when he leads Hong Kong against his old team, Taiwan, in the EAFF Championship qualifiers on Sunday.
The new Hong Kong coach can be forgiven for feeling a bit sentimental as he returns to the very place that saw him coach the islanders for one year but he has promised to “get on with it” as he tries to end Taiwan’s seven-match home victory streak – a record White helped Taiwan set under his tutelage.
The 44-year-old Englishman took charge of Hong Kong in September and has been involved in two friendlies with a 1-1 draw against Indonesia, which followed a 1-0 defeat by Thailand.
But Sunday’s second-round match will be White’s first official match in charge as Hong Kong look to begin their EAFF campaign on a winning note.
“It’s all about competition and there will be no emotion,” said White in Taipei on the eve of the crunch game. “After the game, it would be nice to see everybody but we are here to do the job.
“It’s going to be a great game. I know the players obviously and what they might bring to the game. Those players are going to come out with something to prove and they are going to fight. We know it’s not going to be easy. At the end of the day our focus here is to win the first game and go onto the next game.”
Only one team from the tournament, which also features North Korea, the pre-tournament favourites and Mongolia, will advance to the final next year whey they will meet regional powers Japan, China and South Korea, who are hosting the 2019 tournament.
Hong Kong are looking for nothing less than victory against Taiwan to lay the groundwork before they take on North Korea on Tuesday before completing their campaign against Mongolia on Friday.
White received some good news with utility player Festus Baise arriving in Taipei on Friday after obtaining an early release from his Chinese Super League club Guizhou Hengfeng. But prolific striker Giovane da Silva has been forced to withdraw from the team due to a thigh injury and has been replaced by Tai Po youngster Chung Wai-keung.
“We have come prepared,” insisted White. “We know what we are doing and our spirit in the camp is fantastic. We have some real leaders with experience and they are playing at a high level.”
Taiwan only appointed their new coach this week following White’s departure two months ago and newcomer Wang Guzhong knows he faces a difficult job ahead.
“I have had only five days to oversee the players but I spoke each of them and we must give it everything in the first game and try not to let our fans down. We have a record of seven straight home wins set by White. We will try to keep our record but it’s won’t be easy. We have never beaten Hong Kong before.”
Taiwan will miss captain Chen Po-Liang – a former Pegasus player in the Hong Kong Premier League – as he is attending a coaching coach but he will rejoin his team next week.