Friday, 20 November 2015

Hong Kong V China Footnote

I note with concern and disappointment that the mainland tabloid Global Times has criticized the behavior of the Hong Kong fans and called for FIFA to impose ‘severe penalties’ against the HKFA. I would like to make a few observations about this:

·         Firstly they are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Most observers agree that the vast majority of fans from both sides behaved impeccably and that generally it was a good natured, if lively crowd. At one point both sets of fans even participated in a Mexican wave. Any negative behavior including booing the anthem and jeering opposing fans was actually limited in scale and took place before the match. During the match and afterwards there was no trouble at all.
·         The Global Times fails to recognize that the negative behavior referred to above was largely incited by the ridiculous CFA poster campaign. It may also have been exacerbated by the rather arrogant statements made by certain members of the China delegation before the match that they would be going home with three points. That was disrespectful and unsporting. Maybe the fact that some humble pie was necessary after the match has led to this latest stance. I wonder, would they be demanding this action had they won the match?

·         Personally I don’t think it is appropriate for a newspaper to be seeking to influence FIFA, they should report the news, not try to create it. One of the things that sickens me most when watching a football match is when players try to persuade the referee to caution an opponent. This is tantamount to the same thing.

·         I believe the Global Times is state controlled. Article 17 of the FIFA statutes confirms that ‘Each Member (Association) shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties’. Perhaps they should be a bit careful in this regard. Fortunately I have no doubt that FIFA will make its own decisions (which I accept could be a further sanction) and will simply ignore this petulant request.

I also believe that the CFA has lodged a complaint with FIFA about the alleged ‘ghost’ goal. Seriously, what is the point? The match is over, get over it, the result is not going to be changed. Hong Kong was on the receiving end of an abysmal decision in our recent match against Thailand. We could have complained but we didn’t. Similarly we could have complained about the fact that one of the China players was only booked and not sent off for a cynical and clearly premeditated horror tackle on Jaimes McKee in the first minute. We could have complained that our goal was disallowed when their goalkeeper fumbled the ball and fell over, we didn’t. I can understand why they are upset about the decision but this is football. As I stated in my previous blog, if you are going to play sport you have to accept that occasionally you will be given harsh and sometimes incorrect decisions.

That’s life.

The poet Rudyard Kipling put it more eloquently than I can when he wrote…”If you can meet Triumph and Disaster, and treat these two imposters just the same……you’ll be a Man, my son”.

Mark Sutcliffe,  November 2015        


  1. Now you understand why the Hong Kong fans are so upset about the CFA and the people who run it. All I say is good luck to them for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

    Please tell us a little more about Tseung Kwan O Football Training Centre in your next post, I read in the news that you have made some good progress on this.

  2. Dear Allan,
    It must be really frustrating for them. The biggest population in the world and ranked 84th; it's kind of humiliating. There is so much political interest and pressure now from the top and seemingly resources are no issue. So to have only ever qualified for one World Cup and in all probability not qualifying for Russia 2018 is embarrassing. And to cap it all not even being able to beat a minnow like Hong Kong or to even score a goal. Having said all of that I don't feel sorry for them. If they had shown more humility and respect to Hong Kong, then I might, just feel a little bit sorry for them, but they didn't so I don't.
    I will write my next blog about the TKO Training Centre.

  3. Dear Mark,
    I despise CFA. They will always be the looser because they can't even understand what sportsmanship means. It was quite obvious they were thinking of coming to HK to beat the hell out of HK Team. Ouch....
    I have been reading quite a bit from the Mainland blog. Mainland people are cursing on China Team because of not making a score. They even demand to sack the head coach. Poor Alain Perrin !!
    Talking about "face", that runs in all Chinese blood. (kind of silly though) This time round, they lost it completely. - loosing to a minnow like HK as you said. That really burns !!
    I am so happy on the match result. Absolutely delighted to see our boys (HK Team) doing so great, but hate to see HKFA has to be penalized. Let's wait to see what FIFA has to say.

  4. Dear Pearl,
    Thanks for your response. FIFA has written to us confirming that they have opened disciplinary proceedings against the HKFA as a result of the booing of the national anthem. It is almost inevitable that we will be punished again, which is frustrating. I hope FIFA will take into account the cause of the booing (political instability and reaction to CFA poster) as well as the fact that the HKFA tried to discourage it. I doubt it however and we are braced for further sanctions. You would have thought FIFA had enough of its own problems to sort out, but still.


    LionsXII is booted out of Malaysia's M League. Maybe it is a good time to investigate again if HKFA and FAS can work together on something?

    I strongly believe that it is better for Singapore and Hong Kong football to work together, than HK trying to work with China or Singapore trying to work with Malaysia.



  6. .....interesting. It seems there is more to this than meets the eye. I will investigate.

  7. Dear Mark,

    I echo with what Allan's suggested. It is more realistic to collaborate with FA of Singapore instead of China FA in terms of the league standard and professionalism. I have a few suggestions on it:

    1) Send a team to participate the top division league mutually.

    2) If (1) does not work, HK Premier League & S. League can still collaborate partially. We may send some teams to join their local cups, just like Kitchee played the Singapore Cup in a few years ago. We may also invite Singaporean clubs to play our FA Cup and Sapling Cup. If they win the cup, the 3rd placed team in Premier League will replace the cup winner to participate in the Post Season (AFC Cup) Playoff.

    3) Setup an annual HK-SG Cup to replace the defuncted (?) HK-Shanghai Interport Cup: Hong Kong NT + a Hong Kong club against Singapore NT + a Singapore club in every year, with one of them playing at home and another playing away.

    Hkgolden Dieguito

  8. Dear Hkgolden Dieguito,
    Thanks for your good suggestions. I will try and arrange a meeting with my opposite number in Singapore and see if there is any mutual interest.

  9. Dear Mark,
    Thank you for your reply. I would like to provide some comments and suggestions to HKFA concerning the friendly match arrangement of Hong Kong NT in 2016 too. After the goaless draw with China PR at home, our chance to qualify in WCQ 3rd round is actually quite slim. To be honest, not many fans in Hong Kong think that our team can go to Russia, but it is possible for the team to participate in the main round of 2019 UAE Asian Cup. It should be our major target in coming years.

    We should aim at Pot 1 or Pot 2 of Asian Cup qualification group stage, so we can avoid several strong teams we've never beaten before, such as Jordan, Oman and Palestine.

    The AFC may use either of the criteria to divide the pots in ACQ:

    1) Ranking of 2nd round of WCQ
    As it will divide the 24 teams into 6 groups, the 13th – 18th teams should be listed in Pot 1 (i.e. 4 runner-ups + 2 best 3rd placed teams of WCQ). Actually, we are very close to this. After reducing the points against 5th placed team, Hong Kong has obtained 8 points already.
    Compare with the other 3rd placed teams in other seven groups, only Palestine obtained 8 points. Even if we finish at 3rd place in Group C, it is quite save for us to keep at 18th place unless Kyrgyzstan (5 points) beats Tajikistan away, Lebanon (4 points) obtains 4 points from Myanmar and Korea or Vietnam (4 points) obtains 4 points from Taiwan and Iraq. Therefore, we don’t need to worry much about that. Try our best to get a point in Doha!

    2) the FIFA ranking
    It will be tricky for us if AFC decides to use the FIFA ranking to arrange the pots of 2019 ACQ drawing. We need to either boost our FIFA ranking to 18th in AFC to make sure in Pot 1 or at least keep at 24th or above for Pot 2. Then, we can avoid a tough group with two strong Arabian teams in ACQ group stage.

    It should be noted that any new FIFA class A match will be counted for 1 year FIFA average point, and our 1 year average (from Dec 2014 to Nov 2015) is 188 now. If we play with a “weak team” ranked 150 or below, our average must be reduced by it as the maximum point we can obtain in this match is 127.50. Therefore, we can use the following formula to find out who will be our suitable friendly opponent in 2016:

    3 [points] * 1 [importance] * 0.85 or 1 [confederation] * (200-x) [rank] > 188 [avg. pt. within 1 year]

    x > 126 (for NT from AFC, CONCACAF, CAF & OFC) / x > 137 (for NT from UEFA & CONMEBOL)

    The elo rating of Hong Kong is 1222 after 17 Nov 2015. In view of the elo ratings of Thailand, Lebanon and Palestine are around 1350-1400, we can deduce that it is difficult for Hong Kong to beat the NTs with elo rating >1300. So, here are a few recommended NTs that we may consider in coming year:

    Faroe Islands (FIFA rank: 89, pts for a win: 333, Elo rating: 1202)
    Antigua and Barbuda (FIFA rank: 80, pts for a win: 306, Elo rating: 1236)
    Aruba (FIFA rank: 112, pts for a win: 224.4, Elo rating: 922)
    Kyrgyzstan (FIFA rank: 124, pts for a win: 193.8, Elo rating: 1179)

    Actually, all of the mentioned teams are far away from our city without any direct flights. If HKFA cannot allocate much resources to arrange the friendlies with them, the best solution is DON’T DO ANYTHING until the draw of AFC Qualification Main Round.

    We should also consider that there is another rule for FIFA points calculation: if a team played less than 5 matches within a year, they are unable to get the full average points, i.e. reduce 20% for each match. To avoid such punishment, we may play with some weak teams such as Macau, Brunei, Mongolia in Oct and Nov 2016 to guarantee at least 127.50 points to take account into our year average.

    These are my suggestions for your consideration. Hope our dream comes true!

    Best regards,
    Hkgolden Dieguito

  10. Dear Hkgolden Dieguito,
    I am genuinely impressed with the depth of your analysis and understanding of the 'dark arts' of the FIFA ranking system and vagaries of the AFC draw. You are absolutely correct that qualifying for the Asian Cup 2019 is our main target. We haven't given up on qualifying for the next round of World Cup 2018 qualifying but as you say, it is a very long shot.
    Your suggestions are very clear and logical and I can assure you that we will take these into consideration when planning our strategy for 2016 and beyond.
    Thank you so much for your interest and attention to detail.

  11. Dear Mark,

    Learnt from some football online media that HKFA may consider hosting the EAFF Cup qualification round again during the FIFA official matchdays in Nov 2016. I would like to share my view on this matter.

    If the draw of Asian Cup qualification group stage is held AFTER the announcement of FIFA ranking in Dec 2016, obtaining straight wins in EAFF qualifiers will be important to our FIFA ranking. In view of its importance for the draw, I suggest HKFA to bid as the host of EAFF qualifiers. So, we will have better chance to obtain good results in both AFC and EAFF tournaments.

    If the draw is held BEFORE FIFA releases the Dec 2016 ranking, the FIFA point is not that important then. IMO, HKFA may give up to bid it. As Hong Kong NT is not so good to play at neutral and away ground, it will be a good opportunity to prepare for the 3 Asian Cup qualifier away matches (we must not lose any of them) if Guam or Taiwan decides to host the EAFF qualifier.

    Hkgolden Dieguito

  12. Dear Hkgolden Dieguito,
    More good points for us to consider. I think we should host the EAFF qualification round if we can. At home with the current rate of improvement we may be able to qualify for the finals which would be great experience and an opportunity to gain even more ranking points. In January we will be devising our 2016 representative team strategy. We will bear your comments in mind so thanks again.


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