Tuesday, 24 January 2017

When the Going Gets Tough!

I would say that we had a ‘dream’ draw in the World Cup Qualifiers. Some would say that we have been given a ‘nightmare’ draw in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. Certainly I don’t think any of the teams we have drawn (DPR Korea, Lebanon and Malaysia) would have been our first choice in their respective pots. Travelling to DPR Korea and Lebanon will be difficult and the opponents will be tough. Malaysia are no pushovers either as we know from experience. All four teams will fancy their chances of getting to the finals, especially DPR Korea who clearly start as favourites to win the group. The DPR Korea Head Coach has the distinct advantage of working with his players on a full time basis.

We got a flying start in the World Cup qualifiers and this gave us momentum in the competition. This time we have Lebanon away first up (March) followed by DPR Korea at home (June), neither of these will be easy fixtures to say the least. We’re going to have to be at our best to get results from these games.

Right, that’s enough negativity. The draw has been made, we know the magnitude of the task and qualifying for the finals (UAE 2019) remains our goal. I know we can do it. So we start the hard work, right here, right now. I have already communicated with Coach KIM and when he returns tomorrow we will plan our strategy. All of the qualification matches fall at the end of each 10 day FIFA match-day period so we can arrange some friendly fixtures and training camps to enable us to prepare properly.

We have a great team spirit and work ethic and everyone will fight for Hong Kong. The whole team is determined and passionate. Furthermore, I know our loyal fans will give their support and this means a lot to the coaches and players in particular.

If and hopefully, when we qualify, we will know that we have done it the hard way rather than relying on an easy draw. As the saying goes….when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! Go Hong Kong

Mark Sutcliffe CEO, January 2017


  1. http://www.todayonline.com/sports/football/singapore-loses-premier-league-asia-trophy-tournament-hong-kong

    "While the loss of the Asia Trophy to Hong Kong will be a blow to the S$1.33 billion Sports Hub, the consortium is currently in negotiations to bring the International Champions Cup (ICC) to Singapore to fill the gap.

    TODAY reported earlier this month that various parties are in talks to bring the premier club exhibition football tournament to the 55,000-seater National Stadium in mid-2017.

    The ICC's roster for last year included top European club sides Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    While the parties have not signed on the dotted line, TODAY understands that a deal is close to being confirmed.

    "We are in constant contact with event owners and promoters internationally, to present more quality events that add to the vibrancy of the Sports Hub as well as the sporting and lifestyle scene in Singapore," said Mr Chin."

    So Singapore is getting the International Champions Cup and we cannot get Real Madrid to come. Maybe HKFA should see which clubs are visiting Singapore and ask them to come to Hong Kong as well to replace Real Madrid.

  2. Not a bad idea Allan, I will keep an eye out for any announcement regarding the ICC. Regards,

  3. Dear Mark,

    I am so gutted that Kitchee lost to Ulsan Hyundai by penalties shoot out... if they lost 3-0 I would not have felt so bad...

    I see that AFC Cup Group I (East Asia) only has 3 clubs. Can HKFA apply to AFC for Kitchee to join this group? AFC is supposed to encourage competition. Kitchee is suitably qualified. There is no harm trying, right?



  4. Dear Allan,
    I share your disappointment. So near and yet so far is very difficult to take. I genuinely wanted Kitchee to win and they exceeded my expectations. Having two teams in the AFC CL would have been fantastic.
    Your idea is a good one but of course this would depend on a number of things all falling into place. Firstly the AFC would have to agree to it but in my opinion 4 teams in a group is better than 3 and more consistent. Secondly Kitchee would need to agree to it. They may prefer to concentrate on the HKPL? Thirdly it would depend on the availability of suitable venues in HK. Also two of the teams are from DPR Korea and in the limited time available it would be difficult to sort out visas etc.
    I will discuss it internally first.
    Thanks again for your interest and ideas.

  5. Hi Mark,

    Good to hear that HKFA arrange a friendly match between HK and Jordan in Amman before the hard battle in Lebanon.

    Our first home match against North Korea will be more important than the match in Lebanon. Even the Hong Kong team could not beat the North Korean in the history, we must obtain at least one crucial point from them to keep our chance to quality in the 2019 Asian Cup. I have a few suggestions about our next friendly opponent in June.

    1. Jordan - they will travel to Vietnam in June. If they arrange a friendly with us, they can stay here to get over the subtropics weather. Also, Jordan and N.Korea are the top two teams among the current ACQ participants, playing the "2nd leg" with them is our best choice.

    2. New Zealand - Thanks to Rangers and Kitchee, we have some connection with their league champion, Auckland City in these few months. They will play with Belarus on June 13 before the Confederation Cup in Russia. Is it possible to arrange a friendly with them if they take the indirect flights and stay here for a few days?

    3. Indonesia - They were banned from WCQ/ACQ series in very early stage. So, they won't have many competitive international matches until the next edition of AFF Suzuki Cup (in late 2018) and WCQ (in 2019). They are not a bad choice in terms of being the runner-up of 2016 Suzuki Cup.

    4. Myanmar - They cannot compare with North Korea, but the only reason to choose them is that they will travel to Macau in June. A simple option.


  6. Thanks for your suggestions Dennis,
    We are taking this qualification process seriously because it is our overriding ambition to qualify for the finals. We have been given a tough draw but we are not complaining and just getting on with it. The away game in Jordan is indicative of this attitude and will be good preparation.
    Our next target as you say is a home friendly before the DPR Korea match. We are trying a number of options and moving through our priorities. We have already tried but failed to get a number of countries including New Zealand and UAE. Myanmar have offered to come but Coach KIM is looking for a sterner test first. I am sure we will play them at some stage. Your other suggestions are good ideas and we will keep trying.
    We intend to have competitive friendlies before all of the ACQs so there will be plenty of action. Of course some will be away and e.g. we are pretty close to securing Singapore before the Malaysia match.
    Thanks for your on-going interest in Hong Kong Football.
    Kind Regards,

  7. Hi Mark,

    I hope you are well.

    I would like to find out the Tseung Kwa O football training centre progress?

    Kind Regards,

    1. Hi Joe and thanks for the message. Construction started on 13th September and we are now more than half way through the 300 day construction period. Things are progressing OK but as you would expect there are some challenging issues to overcome. We are still planning an official ceremony on 1st July but for various technical reasons (like statutory inspections and operating permits etc) the official opening may not be until September.
      I go to a site meeting every two weeks and get more and more excited as the project comes out of the ground. It is going to be a great facility.

  8. http://www.todayonline.com/sports/football/bayern-munich-play-two-friendlies-singapore

    Dear Mark,

    Bayern Munich going to play in China and Singapore this summer. Any chance they could play in Hong Kong, too?

    Warm regards,


    1. Hi Allan,
      We have the Premier League Asia Trophy as you know in late July and we are working on another match as well. I can't give any further information at this stage I'm afraid but we will announce something as soon as we can.

  9. http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/kim-jong-nam-murder-malaysia-mulls-venue-change-for-malaysia-north-korea-asian-cup

    Dear Mark,

    Our group opponent Malaysia are considering a venue change in their away match to North Korea. If Malaysia does not travel to North Korea, I think it is not fair to Hong Kong if we travel there?

    On another topic, I suggest Hong Kong should consider bidding for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. As we will have Kai Tak Stadium, Hong Kong Stadium (postpone its renovation until after the event), rebuilt Yuen Long Stadium, expand Mongkok Stadium and Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground as the host venues?

    The 24 teams can train at Tseung Kwan O Football Training Centre plus other sports grounds. In any case once we get the hosting rights the government will make sure HKFA gets what it needs to host the event. It will be a great way to get the govt to improve all the local football facilities and promote football locally. The construction of Kai Tak Stadium will also have a stronger sense of purpose.



  10. Dear Allan,
    Thanks for your contribution and comments.
    Obviously the political tensions between Malaysia and DPR Korea are high right now. Let's wait and see what happens to the AFC Cup match between the two countries. If the match is played in a neutral venue then I agree with you that the other games due to be played i.e. Hong Kong and Lebanon should also be played at a neutral venue.
    I don't know whether the venue for the 2023 AFC Cup has been decided, I will check. Whilst it is a good idea to host these sorts of event (not least because you automatically quality) but I'm not totally convinced that Hong Kong has the infrastructure. Given that the new stadium is not due to be ready until 2022, it might be seen as too risky for the AFC to award the event to Hong Kong. Any further delays in the construction would be problematic. Event organisers want fully functional venues at least one year in advance so 'test' events can be held. It's already a tight timescale.

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