Hong Kong football has reached an end of an era after the resignation of Hong Kong manager Kim Pan Gon. The South Korean whom first came to Hong Kong as a player and stayed on to build up a respectable coaching and managerial career has been offered and taken up the role of a technical director in the Korea Football Association.
His departure comes at a crucial time as Hong Kong still have an outside chance of qualifying for the Asian Cup 2019 should they manage the tough task of defeating North Korea away in Pyongyang.
The fiery and impassioned Kim Pan Gon definitely had the national team’s best interests at heart and often spoke of this in interviews and Hong Kong’s famous nil all draws both home and away against China in the World Cup 2018 qualifiers captured the imagination of the city and elevated Kim’s status and reputation in the city. During that time period, Kim and the national team managed to achieve something which thought would be near impossible; the national team became the ‘water cooler’ talk of the town, became headline news and the city managed to grind to a halt for Hong Kong’s impressive home draw against China. For a city which is sometimes seen to lack in an ingrained sporting fan culture; this was a minor win.
For the highs of the world cup qualifiers and the enthusiasm it generated amongst fans; much more was expected and the team was expected to launch to a higher level in terms of performances and results. Sadly, the team seemed to plateau and expectant fans were often left frustrated especially with failure to qualify for the recent EAFF Cup and needing a near miracle in Pyongyang to qualify for the newly expanded and probably the most open Asian Cup in recent history. For all the wins against certain opponents in both friendlies and qualifiers, Hong Kong often fell short when it came to the vital fixtures and an over-reliance on certain players meant that the team became quite stagnant. It was only in recent games that young up and coming players were experimented with and the results were overall successful.
Hong Kong football fans have given Kim much kudos and patience though recently there has been calls for a change in the hot seat. It has been said that people should be careful for what they wish for as observers will note that Hong Kong have slowly improved in both their style of play and have performed admirably in some matches.
Hong Kong Football Association CEO Mark Sutcliffe commented on Kim’s time at the helm and the respect that Kim generated amongst many fans, players and staff.
“Coach Kim has dedicated a large part of his career to Hong Kong football and in particular to the HKFA over the last five and a half years. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him over that period of time. The Hong Kong representative team has improved significantly under his direction and we would like to pay tribute to, and thank him for, his diligence and contribution. While we are sad to see him go, we wish him well in his new challenging and prominent position. We will all miss his enthusiasm, knowledge and unique style”.
Coach Kim also shared his views on his time in Hong Kong with the media.
“I would like to state my special thanks to Hong Kong citizens for their support in the last 18 years. The past five and a half years was the most joyful time in my life with proud and happiness, I have put my best efforts, passions with my true heart and soul for HK football, I have no regret with what I have done and performed to fight with our fellow citizens for HK. Now I am going to pick up a new challenge in Korea FA and will gain experience and learn from them. I would like to show my appreciation for HKFA, premier league clubs, representative team staffs, players for their unfailing supports throughout the years. From now on, I will be a supporter for the Hong Kong representative team as a citizen as always.”
RTHK sports reporter, Atom Cheung, was a fan of coach Kim and the passion and sense of pride he liked the national team to exude.
“I like Kim both as a coach and as a person. He does his job with a lot of pride and I like that the theme of fighting for Hong Kong often come up in his press conferences. He likes to wear his pride upfront.”
Atom Cheung also shared his favourite memory of coach Kim which was the defiant 0-0 away draw in Shenzhen against China in the world cup.
“My favourite memory of Kim was the way he walked into the media room trying to hold back an obvious smile in front of a crowd of predominantly mainland reporters following Hong Kong’s 0-0 away draw to China in a World Cup qualifier in Shenzhen. ‘We screwed you guys and you know it,’ his expression seemed to say, and it was great.”
The end of an era and with Kim leaving, Hong Kong will now look to the future and his successor will again have the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
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