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