With the Hong Kong National Team on the up, Mark Sutcliffe, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Football Association, kindly took time out to have a chat with Christopher KL Lau about Hong Kong World Cup qualifying matches and more.
What will the score be against the Maldives?
Well, I am obviously hoping for a Hong Kong win. It will definitely be harder and I am not really a predictions man but I will go for a 2-0 Hong Kong win.
Did you personally think that the frenzy for tickets would occur?
We sold out all the tickets for the last game and we sold out the tickets for tomorrow’s match last Friday because in the time that I have been here, that has not happened before other than when one of the big European clubs have been over here….I was a little bit surprised but there are a few reasons for it, the main one being the increased media noise created by the China FA campaign.
I think it is more about the awareness that was created. If all the media are talking about it then people will know that this match is taking place. Without that, as you put it, frenzy, it is difficult to generate sufficient interest so that people know that matches are taking place. I think that’s what it was, rather than any kind of protest or anti-China feeling about the campaign, it was generally about raising awareness.
So you anticipate the China game in November will be completely packed out?
Well, I think so. We are playing in Shenzhen in a couple of months before the home game so it depends on the result of that game and where we are in the group at that stage. I think, certainly, there is no way, we would want to host a game in Mong Kok with the limited capacity of 6,700 so we will be hoping for a full house at Hong Kong Stadium in November as well.
It seems the Hong Kong Media and general public have finally truly embraced the Hong Kong national team in a way like never before? Is this due to a greater sense of belonging?
It is difficult to answer that question without going into the realms of politics and I always try to keep football and politics separate. I think, as I said, in the answer to the previous question, it is more about raising the awareness of the matches taking place and Hong Kong is a separate member association of FIFA, and having its own football team then obviously people who reside in Hong Kong and have an affinity with Hong Kong as a place and city will gravitate to support Hong Kong.
How can Hong Kong realistically do against China and Qatar?
Well, those two games are obviously going to be the toughest in the group, given that they were in pot 1 and 2 respectfully and are higher than us in the FIFA rankings.
In my experience, football can sometimes be a strange game. Hong Kong won’t be expected to win those games so we can go out and play without fear and you never know. Hong Kong has beaten China before and given that it is 11 players on the field against 11, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t get a good result against both those teams, especially against China and with the home crowd behind us.
Photo credits: Christopher KL Lau (offside.hk)
Contact – https://twitter.com/Chris_KL_Lau