Gary White: ‘Everybody thought I was crazy when I said Hong Kong could qualify’
- Englishman continues to weave his magic as he masterminds Hong Kong’s place in the EAFF Championship finals after just two months in charge
Two months ago he had his serious distractors but nobody is ever going to doubt Gary White again after he continued his magic to mastermind Hong Kong’s spot in next year’s EAFF Championship finals.
When White was given the task of leading the Hong Kong team in September, the 44-year-old Englishman wasn’t exactly welcomed to the city with open arms with one member of the board even objecting to his appointment, saying he wasn’t the right man for the job.
White has proved his detractors wrong after Hong Kong beat out tournament favourites North Korea for the sole spot in next year’s finals, where they will rub shoulders with East Asia’s best – Japan, South Korea and China.
Hong Kong pipped North Korea in the final standings by scoring one more goal after teams were level on points and finished on the same goal difference. North Korea needed to beat Taiwan by three clear goals after Hong Kong had smashed Mongolia 5-1 but the 2010 World Cup finalists fell short in a 2-0 win.
White had worked wonders with Guam and Taiwan and he had faith in his charges to pull off the unlikely quest of finishing ahead of North Korea. His team also put their faith in the coach and it showed as Hong Kong won two games and drew one, playing three games in the space of just six days.
“The goal was to qualify,” said White in Taipei. “People looked at me as if I was crazy when I said we could qualify a few weeks ago … but I know what these players are capable of,” he said.
— Football in HK (@offsideHK) November 13, 2018
“Nobody thought we could make it when we came into this tournament. I told the players that ‘whatever you can conceive, you can achieve’. This is the famous quote that has stuck with us.
“In the beginning of our training camp, I asked every player what they wanted to achieve for Hong Kong and so many of them said qualify for the next round. We believed in ourselves.
“We still haven’t reached our full potential. We got a lot of work to do. But I am very happy with the current progress, the atmosphere, the players’ mentality, and I think the players made an immediate impact in this new way of playing, this new idea.”
White refused to single out any player for a job well done in Taipei. Instead White saluted his charges for displaying “unbelievable” courage and team work.
“All credit to the players. The plan was to get to the final and that’s why we worked so hard. Once that happens, then we will focus on the next round. We have a schedule already programmed for next year.”
The coach, who came up through the Southampton FC academy, said Hong Kong didn’t need power and pace against Mongolia but more technical quality and that paid off handsomely.
“We knew this game would be more open with more spaces. You got to pick the players for the opposition and the quality of the tournament. We had a meeting with all the youngsters yesterday and told them how important they are.
“Any benefits that come from these tournaments, these are the players who would benefit and get the most out of it for the future,” said White, who was particularly impressed by youngster Chung Wai-keung, who scored the winner in Hong Kong’s 2-1 victory over Taiwan.
“They are all so young and so eager and they all understand their role. [Tan Chun-lok] has come on in every game and why? Because we know he can help us. Whether it’s five minutes or 25 minutes, it doesn’t matter. He’s been a very important part of the team. We have a squad of 20 players who got to this point. They all played their part, every one of them.”
The four-team EAFF Championship finals will be held in South Korea from December 10-18, 2019.