Thursday, 3 October 2013

Thailand – Here We Come! 泰國 — 我們來了!


Thailand – Here We Come!


It’s now official, our U16 team has qualified for the finals of the AFC U16 2014 tournament due to be held in Thailand next September. To put the magnitude of this in context I am told that this is the first time ever that one of our junior teams has progressed to the latter stages of a regional tournament. That is quite an achievement and one that should be celebrated. More importantly it is success that should be built upon.

We finished in second place behind Australia in our group and qualified on goal difference as one of five best second place teams. This just shows you how small the margins are between success and failure at this level. Our goal difference was +1 if it had been -1, we wouldn’t have qualified. So just two goals difference over 360 minutes of football. Australia only beat us 2-0 and they missed many, many gilt-edged chances. Our progression to the finals is partly thanks to Australia being profligate in front of goal.

However, I think the main reason we qualified is that we hosted the Group stage here in Hong Kong. Home advantage was apparent in all of our matches but particularly the opener when we beat Singapore, probably our main rivals for second place. So in terms of football development, our decision to host the group stage has been vindicated but from a financial perspective this has cost us a lot of money, cash that we can ill-afford but money that I believe has been well-spent. We had also planned to host the U19 Group stage but we couldn’t afford to do both. As I write this our U19 team is preparing to take part in the qualifiers in a neutral venue (Malaysia). I wish them well but it is a difficult group and they won’t have the benefit of home advantage. If we are serious about the future of youth football in Hong Kong, we need a policy of bidding to stage tournaments – there is no substitute for competitions when it comes to developing players. They are not individual, isolated events, they are critical ‘staging posts’ along the development continuum.       

As far as next year’s U16 finals are concerned, the hard work starts now. We must give this current crop of young players every support in preparing for the competition. They will be playing against the best young players in Asia, most of whom will be on full-time programmes at National Training Centres. We don’t have that luxury, well actually it’s not a luxury these days, it’s an essential requirement. Having watched all of the group matches I believe we have a team of talented and very keen players with lots of potential. In terms of technique, understanding of the game and strength and conditioning, there is room for improvement – as you would expect. We will have to do what we can with the resources we have to help them prepare for this prestigious competition. It is their big chance and we should not let them down.

Finally I would like to thank a few people. To the HKFA Directors for backing the bid to host the event and to Ken Ng and Kitchee in particular for helping us to generate revenue to pay for some of the expenses. To the Hong Kong Football Club for providing the venue. To the AFC for giving us the honour to be hosts and for their support in the organisation. To the small but vociferous supporters who came to watch. To the HKFA Competitions Team for their unstinting commitment and professional attitude throughout. To our coaching team and helpers for their dedication and expertise. Finally and perhaps most importantly to the players (and their parent) for their time, energy and love of the game.

Actually as a footnote, it would be remiss of me not to thank Australia, not for missing their chances but for being the only participating country to respond to my emergency appeal to provide a financial contribution to the tournament running costs. They didn’t have to but they did and I am grateful for their generosity. 



 

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泰國 — 我們來了!


終於獲得官方公布,我們的香港十六歲以下青年代表隊成功晉身明年九月在泰國舉行的「2014亞洲足協16歲以下錦標賽」決賽週,這是一個重大的喜訊,是我們首次有其中一支青年軍能夠躋身國際比賽舞台。港隊取得如此佳績,固然值得可喜可賀,但最重要的是成功必須不斷累積下來!

我們以小組次名成績屈居在同組冠軍澳洲之後,並以較佳得失球的優勢而成為其中一支五隊最佳次名成績的球隊,可見成敗僅在於一線之間, 我們以正球1的優勢而晉級,但若以負球1的結果完成賽事,則會將決賽週的入場券拱手相讓!在全部360分鐘的賽事中,我們僅有兩球差距。在澳洲一役中,我們最終以兩球僅負對手,全因他們屢失戎機;我們得以晉身決賽週,或要感謝澳洲揮霍不少破門良機!

然而,個人認為我們成功的最大因素在於今次作為主辦方進行這次小組賽事,港隊擁有主場之利的優勢十分明顯,尤其在於迎戰同為爭奪小組次名資格的新加坡時取得首捷。在比賽發展的層面上,當初足總申辦這場小組賽的決定獲得平反;惟從經濟角度來看,我們所費不貲,縱使盡量省吃儉用,但我認為所需支出已值回票價!足總亦曾經計劃主辦「2014亞洲足協19歲以下錦標賽」的小組賽事,但我們再三思量後決定放棄。在執筆期間,香港十九歲以下青年代表隊正身處中立比賽場地(馬來西亞)備戰今次賽事,我祝願他們全力以赴,惟同組強敵如林,加上沒有主場優勢幫助,要成功突圍必須加倍努力!如果我們落實發展本地青訓足球項目,或需要制訂一套完善的政策來競投小組賽事的主辦權,因為沒有任何一個捷徑比透過不斷參加比賽更快去幫助球員成長。賽事不是單一的活動,反而是一個連錦不斷的「驛站」,球隊能夠在征途上累積實戰經驗!

關於明年舉行的「2014亞洲足協16歲以下錦標賽」決賽週,備戰工作經已展開!我們必須為這班青年精英球員提供全方位支援,他們將與亞洲區頂尖球員同場競技,而大部分國家的球員正享受其國家訓練中心提供的全職訓練課程;相對於我們欠缺這項夢寐以求的設施,事實上它並非遙不可及,應視之為一項基本建設。閱畢所有小組的賽事後,我認為港隊擁有具天賦及潛力無限的球員。在技術層面上,閱讀球賽及加強體能訓練仍有可改進的空間,在目前現有的資源上,足總將會全面配合他們去備戰這項擁有崇高榮譽的國際盛事,球隊機會難逢,我們應該對他們予以鼓勵!

最後,我在此感謝以下人士;香港足球總會董事局支持競投這項賽事的小組主辦權,特別感謝伍健先生和傑志體育會有限公司籌集經費、香港足球會提供比賽場地、亞洲足協全面支持我們承辦今次小組賽事、在場吶喊助威的球迷、足總競賽部同事們為今次賽事付出辛勤的汗水、我們教練團隊的專業指導,以及最重要感謝香港十六歲以下青年代表隊的全體成員(及他們的家長),為今次比賽付出不少、體力及熱情!

作為本文註腳,請寬恕我在此不得不感謝澳洲代表隊,並非他們屢失戎機,而是作為今次小組賽事中唯一參賽國家能夠接受我的緊急呼籲,為今次比賽的營運資金提供經濟援助,事實上他們可以拒施援手,惟他們卻雪中送炭,我十分感激他們的慷慨之舉!
 

4 comments:

  1. Mark, thanks for your sharing on the stories behind the scenes and all the effort. Although I couldn't support the HK teams physically, I do support them with my heart.
    I am sure people in HKFA, like yourself, already have ideas on what you can do to help the u16 players blossom. I just have some suggestions here and hope it can supplement with what you guys already have.

    In terms of training grounds, I know it is hard-fought problem in Hong Kong. However, I know that some international schools have their own private soccer fields. Some of them are even in the downtown. Quality training hours on qualified fields is a key for the u16 players continue to grow. So it might worth HKFA to check on that. HK local sports reporter might know those fields already.

    It is usually a headache to find empty spots on students's schedules due to the workload at school. So it might be worthwhile to talk to the affected schools on how they can accommodate students on schoolwork and schedule. If u16 players have the support from their schools, teachers, I guess they will play extra hard in the trainings and the games.

    Even if we have dedicated players and coaches, we still need money to setup friendly matches, training camps. As U16 players have made the history so far, it might lure more enterprises or sports advocate to support the team financially with a solid preparation plan.

    Wish it helps. Support u16 and HK soccer from overseas. :) U16 rocks!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Bob,
      Thank you for your comment and ideas. We are currently exploring the possibility of using school facilities. We are aware that some have good playing fields some synthetic. We really want our U16 team to do well so we will try to find them the best pitches to train on and talk to the schools to see whether they can be flexible on student workload etc.
      We have just appointed an Academy Head Coach who will join us in November. As soon as he gets here we will work out a training plan for the U16's. It goes without saying that we would like to find some commercial partners to help fund their preparation.
      Kind Regards - keep on supporting!
      Mark

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  2. Dear Mark,

    I would like to ask whether the size of football field in Hong Kong Stadium will be smaller on next Tuesday match against UAE or not. It is extremely difficult to win even draw with UAE as their team has full attacking style and stronger body and faster speed than our players. If the football field can be smaller, Hong Kong players will be more easy to defense. Did HKFA communicate with leisure and cultural services department regarding the issue?

    Best regards,
    MDHM

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear MDHM,
    I am sorry that I could not respond sooner to your comment. The reason is that 'yes' we have reduced the width of the pitch at the Hong Kong Stadium to the minimum width allowed by FIFA which is 64m. This is even narrower than the Mong Kok pitch which is 65m. I didn't want to publish this fact before because the UAE would have been alerted to our tactics. I can mention it now because they have trained at the HK Stadium so they have seen the pitch. Coach KIM wants to keep the length of the pitch at 105m so we can use our pace up front. We are doing what we can to help our team prepare for this important match. Please come along and support.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete