Thursday, 16 November 2017

Looks like we will have to do it the hard way!

We always said that it would be difficult to qualify for the finals of the Asian Cup UAE 2019 - given the draw we were given – and so it has been proven.

Now we have to travel to North Korea next March and win! That sounds improbable but I believe we can do it. In some ways it is better to go for a victory with nothing to lose rather than playing for a draw (which is what we would have needed had we won by two clear goals last night).

My confidence stems from the fact that for the first 40 minutes we were clearly the better team and created some really good chances against the group leaders Lebanon. Unfortunately the game turned on one incident just before half time. I have said many times in this blog that referees are fallible human beings who make mistakes. I have watched the incident many times now and whilst I can see why he awarded a penalty (just) I am still mystified as to why he even thought it was a foul worthy of a straight red. I think most observers would agree that the officials made a mistake.   


The significance of that decision is wide-ranging. Putting to one side the psychological effect that it could have on a young player and the fact that it reinforces poor behavior by rewarding an overreaction by the attacking player, it directly affects our chance of qualification for a major competition, one that we haven’t qualified for since 1968. For a ‘developing’ Football Association the difference between qualifying and not qualifying for a regional tournament is massive. Qualification would be a benchmark for the undoubted improvements we are making. Failure to qualify gives ammunition to the sceptics who say we are making no progress. Furthermore it has a detrimental effect on our FIFA ranking and also on the eligibility of our Clubs to play in regional club competitions like the Champions League. So these factors impact materially on the development of the sport here in Hong Kong. Qualification to the finals would be a massive boost to the sport and could determine whether or not funding partners continue to invest in football. It is that important and it is therefore frustrating when to some extent it hinges or is at least influenced by a poor decision.

I am not exaggerating the significance of the situation and given that, now must be the time to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VAR) for important decisions relating to goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity in international competitive football matches. There is so much at stake now that we can no longer rely on fallible human beings. I sense a consensus moving in this direction too and a number of trials are currently taking place. VAR is only a matter of time.

And whilst we are on the subject, let’s also introduce retrospective action for diving (as has been done in the English Premier League). Diving is prevalent in Asia as was exemplified the other night. One dive was so obvious that I actually laughed out loud (however the player wasn’t even booked). Some of these players must train in a swimming pool! Regular readers of this bog will know that I abhor time wasting, feigning injury, diving, simulation etc. It is beyond me why a team would do that when they have already qualified and are winning a match against ten men. I’m sad to say it but I just think that this sort of behavior is so engrained now, it’s become habitual.

So we re-group, lick our wounds and use the disappointment as a motivator for our last match. We have improved so much recently and as I say looked the better team in the first 40 minutes when it was 11 v 11. Whatever happens I am proud of our team’s performance in these qualifiers and I am sure we can still go through to the finals. We will give it our best shot anyway you can be sure of that.

A word on the booing
Quite frankly it’s getting a bit tedious. The fans who boo have made their point now and I’m pretty sure that if there hadn’t been such interest shown by the politicians and in particular the media, it would have stopped a long time ago. I can’t read most of the papers here but the ones I can read have stopped reporting on the football and are solely interested in the crowd behavior before the match which of course just encourages more booing. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, which I am sure the media knows and relishes. Last night one media outlet even had the temerity to broadcast the anthem live on TV from inside the stadium despite the fact that they had no accreditation to do so. They were not the approved broadcaster and should not have been showing a ‘live’ feed. It’s disgusting really that a so-called professional organisation believes it is OK to infringe the regulations so blatantly.

Another sad trend is what I will call the ‘orchestrated anti-booing rent a crowd’, people who are apparently paid to come and oppose those who are booing. I don’t know who these people are or who is paying them but they are clearly not there to watch the football. They have no understanding of the game and even less interest. Last night I watched as they sat through the entire Lebanon anthem. Personally I find it more offensive to disrespect someone else’s anthem than your own. Someone should teach both groups some manners. This situation is a sad indictment on Hong Kong. Our beloved game is being hijacked (to the obvious delight of the media) as a political tool by both sides in a polarized, fractured society. It’s very sad that the action on the pitch is now seen by many as secondary to what is happening off it. Please if you’re not bothered about the football, just stay away.

The HKFA will wait to see what action is taken against us by the AFC, for it is us that will be penalized once again.



When I came to Hong Kong one of my objectives was to arrange more matches for the Hong Kong Representative Teams and that is what we have done. We have done this because we want to improve the standard of football in Hong Kong and also to give the fans some more interest and excitement. Considering what has happened recently, I think we could be forgiven for not hosting too many international friendly matches at home in the near future. There are no competitive matches lined up so we could just have a hiatus with no games if we wanted. However, we will continue to arrange matches to give our players experience and to reward the true fans. We will not give up and we will not allow negative interests to win. Football will prevail.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO November 2017

36 comments:

  1. When will HKFA decide whether renew contract with Hong Kong football team coach Kim Pan-Gon? Have HKFA discussed these matter or shortlist any candidate ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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  2. I have mentioned it previously that Coach KIM's current contract runs until the end of June next year and therefore after we know for definite whether we have qualified for the finals of the Asian Cup.
    We have to tell him before then whether or not we intend to renew his contract so decisions will be taken in the next few months. Obviously I'm not going to share on a public forum what discussions we have had regarding a particular individual. Those discussions are private and confidential. It would be very premature and disrespectful to have any discussions with any other candidate so I can definitively say that we have NOT.
    Regards,
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand it is inappropriate for Mark to have any further comment. This is just my guess -

      It sounds like this time the HKFA would take the traditional route of online job postings (as with the recent WRTHC opening), or promote someone from within in case Kim contract comes to an end.

      Last time round the whole worldwide recruitment process took eight monnths.

      It took three months to appoint a search partner for the worldwide recruitment.

      Four months later, HKFA announced the appointment for the CEO position.

      It took another month for HKFA to appoint the national manager.

      Delete
    2. Whatever happens, I can guarantee that the process will be more streamlined this time!
      Regards
      Mark

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  3. Dear Mark,

    1. Kim should lead Hong Kong for the match away to North Korea, because he should finish the job, whatever the outcome. Personally I think he did not know what to do when the red card happened and then made 2 bad substitutions on Tuesday night. But surely HKFA should be looking at the possibility of replacing him after June. I mean if you don't look then how do you know who is available?

    2. If you are "mystified as to why he even thought it was a foul worthy of a straight red", then would HKFA considering appealing Tan's red card to the AFC?

    3. I saw Macau scored 3 goals against Krygyzstan on Tuesday night and they clearly have improved, they just need more experience. Benfica Macau is also set to play in AFC Cup group stage next year. Will you consider inviting Macau national team or Benfica Macau to join one of HKFA's Cup competitions, so they can better prepare for next year?

    Regards,

    Allan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Allan,
      As ever thank you for your contribution to my blog.
      1. I've said several times now that I don't think it is appropriate to discuss KIM's future or a potential successor on a public forum. I hope you understand why. Rest assured that we have a plan.
      2. It's worth considering. What did you think about the decision?
      3. Interesting question. My question to you, why would we want to help to strengthen a team that we might end up competing against?
      Regards,
      Mark

      Delete
  4. Hello Mark,

    Rumour has it that Chinese Taipei FA is looking into persuading Andreas Thorsen (now playing for the development team of Raith Rovers) to join their national team.

    Is the former Kitchee academy and HKFC player, who is eligible to apply for a HK Passport, on HKFA technical department's radar?

    P.S. Javen Siu Ko-chun is in that list as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,
      I leave team selection issues to my technical colleagues. I don't think it is my job to interfere.
      Regards,
      Mark

      Delete
    2. Just in case someone in the technical team see this -
      another player that could be under the radar is Connor Pain, who plays as a forward for Central Coast Mariners.

      He has only represented Australia in a friendly match.

      Delete
    3. Just found out that actively seeking out eligible players is one of the key recommendations in the five-year strategic plan:

      //Player Eligibility
      - The HKFA should encourage players to become eligible by adopting an inclusive approach to
      player selection and involvement (#PE1)
      - The HKFA should implement a more pro-active international ‘scouting’ system to identify
      players that are or could become eligible to play for Hong Kong (#PE2)
      //

      Hopefully we will see some progress on #PE2 soon. We need to expand the players pool. Time for an answer - are there any hidden gems out there?

      Delete
    4. Friends at the technical department might want to look at Michael Cohen as well, a former Kitchee & Chelsea Soccer School youth team player currently playing for Hapoel PT U19.

      Delete
    5. Another young player playing abroad is Alexander Jojo, currently playing for Vizela U19

      Delete
  5. We need more friendly matches to get the players to gel and to try out different lineups at the international level! How can we guarantee FIFA A level matches when we don't have any competitive games on the horizon?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. The point in my blog is that once the Asian Cup qualifiers are out of the way (and we don't have any more home games), there will be a gap in competitive international matches because of the cyclical nature of competitions. In the FIFA international match day periods next year we will be arranging friendly matches because I agree we need to do this to develop football. In doing so we are actually making life difficult for us because we know there will be booing etc.
      Regards,
      Mark

      Delete
  6. Hello Mark,

    1. In order to improve the development of the players in Hong Kong, can you think about encouraging them to play abroad in countries such as Japan, Korea or maybe even England (League One or Two of course)?

    2. Will you consider to include Tsun-wai Dai in our team against North Korea in March?

    Regards,
    Ernest

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ernest, thanks for your message.
      Point 1, we have helped to arrange a number of scholarships for players to overseas Universities and as per my previous blog we now have one female player in Australia. In recent years a few of our players have gone to play in China and indeed some are still there. Getting players to be signed by better quality foreign leagues is not easy but we will certainly try.
      Point 2. Again, I don't want to comment on individual player selection issues because that's up to the Coach.
      Regards
      Mark

      Delete
  7. Hi Mark

    Interesting thoughts as always. Has the HKFA determined whether it will pursue legal action against the offending broadcaster?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lester,
      The matter will be part of my general update report to the Board which meets on 4th December.
      Regards
      Mark

      Delete
  8. News report that players have no insurance protection joining the Guangdong – Hong Kong Cup. Besides,Guangdong – Hong Kong Cup is not a fifa A friendly match so many clubs refuse to let players join. Have hkfa discuss about the insurance and arrangement of Guangdong – Hong Kong Cup?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Jelly,
    All I can say is...you should never believe what you hear in the news! Where has this been reported and with what authority/knowledge?
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  10. https://www.nst.com.my/sports/football/2017/12/309886/pahang-put-malaysian-footballs-future-risk

    Dear Mark,

    The country that just overtook us to get 2019-2020 ACL automatic group slot, is not turning up with two clubs for the AFC Cup in 2018. Isn't that ridiculous?

    Shouldn't they be penalized or something? How do we know that they will really turn up also for the ACL in 2019? Maybe we should appeal to AFC and get our ACL slots back for 2019-2020.

    Regards,

    Allan Ng

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Allan,
      It's a good point. It is certainly worth an informal discussion with the AFC. Leave it with me.
      Regards,
      Mark

      Delete
  11. Dear Mark,
    May I have a few questions about Hong Kong woman representative team?
    1.When and where will the 3rd Woman Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup be held?
    2.Will hkfa arrange more international friendly game for HK woman team?

    Regards,
    Nicholas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Nicholas,
      We are still discussing with the Government the possibility of playing a 'double-header' at the HKS to give the women more profile. If this is not possible, the match will be played at TKO at 3pm on Thursday 4th.
      Women's football is a priority for us and we will try and arrange more matches for all of our representative teams.
      Regards,
      Mark

      Delete
    2. Dear Mark:
      Is it possible to hold the match on weekend like Saturday because thursday is a working day and many supporters need to work or attend the lessons,putting the match on weekend can attract more people to support on site.
      Regards,
      Nicholas

      Delete
    3. Dear Nicholas,
      There is a 'return' match in Guangdong on the Saturday.
      Regards
      Mark

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Mark

    I have several questions regarding the HKFA Cup.

    1. I see that once again this season, the top flight clubs will compete for the HKFA Cup whilst the lower division clubs will play for a separate trophy. Could you explain the reasoning behind that decision?
    2. What are the conditions that need to be met in order for the HKFA Cup to return to an "open" cup format whereby the entire pyramid competes for one trophy?
    3. Given that the HKFA Cup Junior Division is for lower division clubs, why not brand it as the Junior Shield? If the concept is the same, it strikes me as strange that the HKFA wouldn't resurrect a name that fans are already familiar with and carries with it over 80 years of history. On top of that, it's a name that's easier to write out in Chinese and English which allows it to stick in one's memory.

    - Lester

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear Lester,
    Thanks for your comment/questions.
    1. There is now such a difference in quality between the professional HKPL teams and the amateur lower divisions that in recent seasons when we have tried this the matches have been so one-sided to render them meaningless. Also to be honest, because the lower division teams know they have no chance of winning, some of the games have been susceptible to match-fixing.
    2. This will not change until the lower division teams are a higher standard and we have eliminated the threat of match-fixing.
    3. Good point. I will discuss this with our Marketing and Competition Departments.
    Regards,
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  15. Last week,Chinese Football Association
    announced that Hong Kong local players can enter the Chinese Football Association Super League(CSL)as local players . However, many people concern whether some naturalization players will be excluded for this new policy. Will Hkfa discuss this issue with Chinese football association ? Will hkfa do something to help Hong Kong players enter the CSL?

    ReplyDelete
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