Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hong Kong V Uzbekistan 香港 對烏茲別克

Hong Kong V Uzbekistan

Last night our team was beaten 0:2 by Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup 2015 Group Stage match. This result means that we are third in the Group with one match remaining (away to Vietnam). Uzbekistan and UAE have qualified whilst we are now competing for the one place reserved for the best finishing third place team. It remains theoretically possible for us to qualify but it will require us to win in Vietnam and for the other teams currently sitting in third place in their groups to all lose. This outcome is unlikely, but we will never give up while there remains a chance. We have to believe in ourselves.

Whatever happens, we can be proud of our performance in this tournament. Uzbekistan is 55 in the FIFA rankings which is 93 places higher than Hong Kong. They are the 3rd ranked team in Asia. Last night we held them at bay for 84 minutes, much of it with 10 men. Our team was competitive and every player gave 100%. It was probably the best I have seen them play and I have no complaints whatsoever. I am proud of the players, proud of the support team and proud of the Head Coach, he is a man of total integrity with a burning passion for Hong Kong football. As you can imagine, the mood in the dressing room after the match was very sombre; they were all devastated and felt they had let Hong Kong down. I told them to hold their heads up high. The fact is that Hong Kong has let them down. How can we expect them to compete against teams who have trained harder for longer with better facilities and more resources? The FIFA rankings don’t lie and if we want to improve we need to recognize that it will take time. It will also take a new approach. We need to create an environment, systems, support and facilities that provide opportunities for aspiring and talented footballers to practice for circa 10,000 hours between the ages of 5 and 18 (15 hours a week). They are doing less than half of that on average now. Until we reach that level, no one has the right to judge our players and coaches.

I was also proud of the other HKFA staff there last night from the Competitions and Marketing teams. They are often the unsung heroes because if they are doing their job properly everything goes smoothly and they hardly get noticed. There is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes both in terms of preparation and on the night. Last night was seamless and professional and credit to them.

I must say a special thanks to the fans. As ever a relatively small crowd made themselves sound and feel like a big one with a cacophony of noise and colour. They created a great atmosphere. I only wish more people would engage with what we are trying to do. The guys on the pitch deserve better and I can’t understand why there is such apparent apathy. The crowd last night was under 6,000 which is 0.07% of the population of Hong Kong. Hong Kong people are supposed to be passionate about football. What are the other 99.93% of the population doing? It was a nice evening, an important match, ticket prices are cheap and the stadium is very accessible. Can someone please explain to me what we need to do to draw a bigger crowd? Two complimentary VIP tickets for the next home game for the best suggestion!

Mark Sutcliffe 20th November 2013


香港 對烏茲別克





薜基輔  二○一三年十一月二十日


  1. Mr Sutcliffe,

    As many people said before, Mongkok Stadium is the best choice for weekday match rather than Hong Kong Stadium. The reason is very simple: convenient.

    Firstly, people can go and leave there very easy and fast with many public transportation. Especially red minibus in Mongkok, which can go almost anywhere in HK.

    Secondly, food for dinner. MK have many restaurants and price are cheap. No need to spend extra money inside stadium. We both know the food in/near HK Stadium actually expensive and not many choices.

    Finally, the atmophere is very important. Many people agree that MK stadium much better than HK Stadium because the stands are narrow and near the football field.

    And I have some comment about Hong Kong National Team and HKFA.

    We both know the player in HK Team are not young anymore. If we can't qualify 2015 Asian Cup, HK Team should have a big change. Some players will be too old in 2019, therefore they should step out the team eariler, giving chance for young players to join the team and gain experience with some core players.

    I have one more advice for HKFA, why don't leave EAFF and join ASEAN?
    Because members in EAFF rather too strong or too weak for us, the different is too big.
    If we join ASEAN, we can join Suzuki Cup, play with some nations that suitable for challenge. We always face the football clubs of ASEAN nations in AFC Cup. So leaving EAFF and join ASEAN is one of the choice to make HK football growing.

    Sorry for my English and thanks for reading.

    1. I don't think that the stands of Mongkok Stadium is nearer to the field than that of Hong Kong Stadium.

    2. Dear Alex (and Radi),
      There have been quite a few debates on this Blog concerning whether Mong Kok is a more suitable venue than the Hong Kong Stadium and I think there are advantages and disadvantages associated with both Stadiums. I don't think there is much difference in the distance from the stand to the pitch but I would agree that there is a better atmosphere with 6,000 people at Monk Kok than you would get with 6,000 people at the Stadium. We had 8,000 at the HK Stadium for the UAE match and this number would have been too many for Mong Kok. We were hoping for more at the match against Uzbekkistan but unfortunately that wasn't the case. We do not have any more matches confirmed at the moment but when we do we will take all of these points into consideration when deciding where to hold the match.
      Regarding the age of players, as I have said many times, I do not want to interfere in team selection matters, that would be wrong. KIM knows better than me but nevertheless I will pass on your comments about the ages of the players to him. Every team needs a blend of up-coming young players and more experienced older players. Successaion planning is important.
      We are part of the EAFF because of geographical reasons and I don't know how feasible it would be to change. I will look into that but of course it doesn't stop us playing friendly matches etc.
      Thanks for your comments. There is nothing wrong with your English.

    3. If Israel, Kazakhstan can join UEFA, Australia can join AFC and ASEAN, I think nothing is impossible.
      And Hong Kong is near Southeast Asia too.
      Acutally if HK, Macau, Guam, Taiwan are united and leave EAFF and ASEAN together, I think this big change may attract people to think about the problem of EAFF.

  2. The point is cliche. Lack.of stadiums for professional team, commercial support, future prospect from the perspective of young adults as a professional football player. Also, the govt's elite sports programme lack its long term vision because players needa gain prizes before reciving support for the authorities. To be frank, how can HK team be the champion of world cup or asian cup? Building a castle in the air. Could you please make a suggestion to the govt to let football be the exception? Football can utterly raise our pride of citizenship when comparing to other sports.

    Please stay passionate becease our territories need football badly. I appriciate your efforts and new thinking! Hope you can really make a change for HK football.

    1. Dear Cheuk Ki Lau,
      Thank you for your support, it is much appreciated. As part of our new Strategy I am making the case that football should be treated differently to other sports in Hong Kong. It is truely global and is the most popular sport in Hong Kong. It generates more economic benefits than any other sport and generally contributes to individuals, communities and society. It is impossible for football to achieve the elite sports criteria and this deprives the sport of much needed investment, facilities and resources.
      I am doing my best to convince others that we need more help.
      Regards Mark

  3. 我是足球教練亦是中學教師

    1. Dear Isaac,
      Thank you for the message and your good idea. We have recently had a number of meetings with the HK Schools Sports Federation and we are now working much more closely with them in terms of grassroots football, girls football and futsal. I will ask my Technical Team to discuss with them how the HKFA can more involved with Schools Football Tournaments and how we can integrate these with our other programmes and Divisions.

  4. I agree that unless we have very high confidence that the match will have more than 10000 attendance, we should choose Mongkok Stadium first.

    Also, I agree that HKFA should join ASEAN to play Suzuki Cup!
    Facing Japan, Korea, etc, Hong Kong just have the chance to defence, can't practice attack.
    Facing Taiwan, Macau, etc, they are not strong enough that Hong Kong can't learn anything.
    Facing Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Hong Kong have the chance to practice both attack and defence. Also, the match will become more challenging which audience will want to see.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I hope my answers on the use of Mong Kok and HK Stadium and the EAFF V ASEAN issue posted above answer your points. I agree we need to find better matched opponents if we are going to improve. Playing teams much better than us and much worse than us, does not really move us forward.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. If HKFA wants to earn money, you can raise the ticket price to $120... $150...

    If HKFA wants Hong Kong WIN, there were no strong reasons to give up the full house environment in MKS where the team won Vietnam with great support of fans in March.

    It was a shame that the Hong Kong fans even couldn't fill up the main level. Who the heck made the decision to change the stadium????????? What a stupid idea!


    1. Dear WeAreHK,
      I am not blaming anyone, I'm simply asking why in a country of over 7m people, may of whom say they love football, only 5,000 can be bothered to come and watch their representative team. I think that is a reasonable question. The HK Stadium is not difficult to get to. If you think it is, you shoulfd try and get to Wembley from Liverpool or Birmingham or Newcastle etc and you still get 90,000 people going to an England match for which they have to pay about HK$1,000 just for the ticket.
      I have discussed this issue many times on this Blog. I am not going to apologise for the Board's decision to move a major international match away from a ground that holds less than 7,000. We had a reasonable expectation that more than that would turn up. You can't really compare playing aginst Vietnam (ranked 151 in the world) with playing Uzbekistan (ranked 55). Wherever we played them, the result would probably have been the same. We played very well and therefore I don't think the venue affected the result. We have to be ambitious in Hong Kong. The decision was not taken simply to make more money. We want to keep the ticket prices low to encourage more people to come, especially children.
      We will review where it is best to play future matches and I am sure that some will be held in Mong Kok. Really this just goes to prove the old saying...'you can't please all of the people all of the time'.
      Thank you for your comments, I enjoy hearing both sides of the argument.

  7. There are few points to consider.

    1. Mong kok stadium has a more convenient location than hong kong stadium. Most of us are just ordinary workers. The match is held in the night on weekday. We have to go back to work the next day. If I live on the extreme ends of New Territories, i have to bear a tiring body the next day. New territories and kowloon accomodates more population than hk island.

    2. From entertainment perspective, $100 per soccer ticket cannot attract me. Why dun i watch a film with $80 cost instead? I can shop afterwards but there is nothing to spare time around the stadium after match.

    3. Hongkong people only appreciate high level soccer leagues like epl and la liga. But is the level of hk league comparable with these?
    In sum, to increase the attendance rate, please
    1. Lower the ticket price from $100 to $30 if hkfa insists on hk stadium.
    2. Use mongkok stadium instead of hk stadium
    3. Advertise the match on different channels. Maybe the airtime on tv is expensive. Then try youtube, facebook. At least place a one fourth page ad. on newspaper, not on sports page, but on main news or entertainment news page. Because nobody knows hk teams fights for the reputation. The report is too small.

    4.increase the cash reward to bost morale of hk team. If i were the player, why dun i reserve the energy and perform better in the league. It creates much more value to me.

    1. Dear Johnny,
      1. Point taken. There is obviously a lot of strong opinion on this matter. We will consider Mong Kok for future International matches, except perhaps for really big competitive matches whjere there is a realistic expectation of getting circa 10,000 people.
      2. I really don't think that HK$100 is too high for ticket price. It is up to us to offer better value for money both on and off the pitch. What I can tell you is that even at these prices and with a full Mong Kok stadium, we cannot make a profit. Our costs exceed our income. The HKFA cannot survive uunless we start to make some money.
      3. Of course our domestic 1st Division is not comparable in terms of quality to the EPL or La Liga but I would hope we would still attract bigger crowds and especially when the National team is playing. We have tried to start to market our matches better but I accept there is still a way to go.
      4. We have recently increased the bonus payments to our HK team players and based it on getting FIFA ranking points. Often our Directors 'top this up' themselves.

  8. 5. Arrange shuttle bus on some strategic locations to facilitate transport.

    6. Invite some singers to perform on the half time intermission. To lower cost, invite some new stars. The half time break is really too boring.

    7.lucky draw associated with the tickets of guangzhou 恆大。that should cost lower than package to epl.

    8.hold some fan meeting to let soccer fans to know more about the soccer players in hong kong

    1. 5. Good idea, we will investigate.
      6. Also a good idea. I agree that half time is too boring.
      7. We will see if we can get some tickets to offer (I think I will need to check with LCSD whether we can do this or not. I seem to remember lotteries etc being prohibited in the Stadia)
      8. We definitely need to promote our players better. A 'mmet the players' event is a good idea too, let me work on it.
      Thanks for your input.


    Not related to the match or your attendance ideas, but more about the proposed TKO Training Centre. You see Guam received FIFA support to install solar panels at their training ground as well as their headquarters to reduce electricity costs. The money saved from electricity bills is now being spent on young talent.

    This must be something HKFA should consider when building its own TKO Training Centre.

    1. Dear Allan,
      Thank you for the suggestion, which is a good idea. As you may know I have been to the Training centre in Guam and it is pretty impressive. I am hopeful that the HKJC will develop our facility and I am sure that all 'green' initiatives will be included. When we did the feasibility study in 2010 we included as many environmentally friendly schemes in there as possible including rain water 'harvesting' etc.

  10. 其實想吸引更多球迷入場,改善入場數字,本人反覆思量過,冀望閣下考慮及參考!

    當地成立印度超級聯賽,各支球隊均有老而彌堅但星味十足的球星加盟,既可吸引更多觀眾入場,又能夠為本土球員獲得星將面授機宜,從而令自己及球隊進步,帶摯國家隊或代表隊實力大躍進,繼而同鄰近國家或地區爭一日之長短。日子有功下,自然令更多觀眾捧場,一舉 ;兩得!


    只要給香港隊多些時間,包容及耐性,不太在意勝負,讓港隊海外多些參加比賽,拉大隊集訓,對整體實力有更深切了解!從而可以查找不足,作出改善,加上感受同觀察異國風情及外隊球風,增廣見聞,不斷進步,觀眾都懷着好奇心,自然入場欣賞,「浸過鹹水」的香港, ;有無一種脫胎換骨的感覺!






    1. Dear Franko,
      Thank you for your comments, sorry for the delay in responding but I had to get them translated.
      Regarding the Indian League, my understanding is that the Clubs in India that attract overseas 'stars' have more money than most of our Clubs. Until we get to that situation in Hong Kong, we might have to rely on other ways to develop our talented local players.
      I think it is unlikely that the Government will change its Rules on Elite Sports and therefore we won't get a berth in the HKSI. I don't think that matters as long as we get a similar level of resources and sports science support. At the moment football is short-changed in that area.
      I completely agree that we should play more international matches from the Senior team all the way down to the junior Academy teams. There is no substitute for international competition. We are trying to raise the resources to get more matches both in Hong Kong and abroad.
      Again I agree that local players would benefit from playing in higher standard foreign leagues. We already have 4 or 5 of our 1st team playing in China. We will try and place more.
      In terms of marketing and publicity, we can always do more. Have you seen our new Fantasy Football Game? If not check out our website.
      Our Coaching and Referees courses are already open to everyone but of course if they have no experience and no qualifications they wiill have to start at the bottom. It is important to keep the standard of coaching and refereeing very high. We have received 'seed money' from the Barclays Asia Trophy which we are using to bring Coaches and Referees over from the UK to develop our local talent.
      I hope I have answered your points, sorry I can't respond in Chinese!
      Thanks for taking the time to contribute to my Blog - much appreciated.

  11. In addition:
    HKFA can develope Official Apps to provide about football news, phones, live reports & results etc. this information.

    Consider to let RTHK Digitial TV Channels to broadcast HK Football Matches on next season, because it is free, many audience can watch TV, it can make the efficient of the promote HK football!

  12. Dear Franko,
    Our current Broadcasting contract ruyns out at the end of the 2013/14 season. We will be discussing future Broadcasting and media rights for 2014/15 onwards with potential partners. As part of that deal we will be looking at all digital media, apps etc.

  13. Dear CEO:

    I suggest let' s hold Q & A game / shooting games in the half time of every matches to attrach many fans to play & enjoy it!

    Plan many charity matches to encourage many fans to donate.

    Suggest to HKSAR Government to build a new international stadium at Kai Tak!


    Franko Lun

  14. Dear Franko,
    Sorry for not replying sooner. There are some good ideas here. It is important that we liven up the experience of watching local football.
    As far as I am aware, the Government is planning to build a Multi-purpose Sports Centre at Kai Tak with a 50,000 seat stadium. This is due to be finished in 2020. To be honest, we need it quicker than that!