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. 



泰國 — 我們來了!


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!






  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!!

    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!

  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,

  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.