OPINION-How to modernize football in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei?
According to the FIFA Men’s World Football Rankings at the end of May 2021, China was ranked 77, far ahead of Chinese Taipei (ranked 141), Hong Kong (ranked 144) and Macau (ranked 182) out of a total of 210 pitches. . If so, what needs to be done to modernize the development of football in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei?
Judging by the most recent performance in the 2022 World Cup second qualifying round in the Asian region, the development of Chinese football is much more advanced than in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei. China beat the Philippines (2-0), Syria (3-1), Maldives (5-0) and Guam (7-0). He will go to the third round to compete more. Hong Kong was ousted in a group against strong teams, beaten by Iran (1-3), Bahrain (0-4) and Iraq (0-1), but managed to beat Cambodia (2 -0). Taipei performed relatively poorly in the 2022 World Cup second qualifying round; he was beaten by Australia (1-5), Nepal (0-2) and Kuwait (1-2). However, this performance was slightly better than Taipei’s first round in which he was heavily beaten by Australia (1-7) and Kuwait (0-9). The return to the Taipei team’s home coaches seemed to improve their performance slightly, but the recent loss to Australia and Nepal in the second round demonstrated the local coaching team’s lack of international experience, in especially the reluctance and delay in turning players decisively during matches. . Although four Taiwanese players who played in mainland China were unable to join the national team and was one of the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance, Taipei football remains weak overall and needs modernization.
Likewise, Hong Kong football needs to be modernized quickly. As in Taipei, its national team must rely on naturalized players born in foreign countries such as Brazil and Spain. Indeed, China also has several naturalized players born abroad to boost the performance of its national team – a common trend in global men’s football competition, especially in Asia. Nevertheless, the dependence on naturalized players has demonstrated the relative lack of quality local players in many countries and places in Asia. The development of football in Hong Kong is perhaps a striking example compared to Taipei and Macao.
Macau stands out as the weakest in the development of its men’s football compared to Hong Kong and Taipei. The controversial management of the Macau Football Association could be seen in June 2019 when it decided not to send the national football team to play the 2022 World Cup qualifier with Sri Lanka for security reasons. . Some players were angry with his decision, showing a lack of consultation beforehand. A total of 48 Macau Football League players signed their names to protest the association’s decision. Finally, FIFA decided that Macau was beaten by Sri Lanka (0-3) and that the Macau team would be penalized financially. The Macao government analyzed the incident but complied with the association’s decision, which would pay the FIFA fine.
Management has emerged as a crucial issue in the recent development of the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA), whose problematic governance became the subject of the Chief Audit Executive’s report in April 2020. Although the HKFA recently reorganized its leadership, it remains to be seen how the Vision 2025 strategic plan will be implemented so that good governance can be achieved, football standards can be high and financial sustainability maintained.
There are several issues in the development of football in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei: (1) the urgency to train much younger players with better skills and physical capabilities in all three locations, (2) better management of the part of the association, and (3) more importantly, the need for more international and regional matches so that the standards of national players can be improved and their experience enriched. The lack of international and regional matches that can enrich the experience of young players is the most pressing problem for the national teams of Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei.
One solution is to form a regional tournament which could have improved the player experience and international standing. Perhaps the annual Guangdong-Hong Kong tournament can be expanded to include at least Macau, while Macau itself is expected to host more regional matches with not only Hong Kong but all cities in the Greater Bay Area as well. Prior to 1971, Taipei football performed well internationally, mainly due to the participation of some skillful players from Hong Kong. After 1971, when Hong Kong players no longer represented Taipei, Taiwan’s football development declined until the 1990s, when the government encouraged business enterprises to form their sports and football teams.
The development of football in Taiwan has recently seen an increase in the number of young players and teams at the elementary school level – a phenomenon unprecedented in Hong Kong and Macau. In terms of developing youth interest in football and youth talents, Taipei has a lot of potential to maximize further, while Hong Kong and Macao have a lot to improve the development of youth football at secondary and primary levels. The summer soccer tournament is expected to be aggressively expanded in Hong Kong and Macau to rekindle the interest and participation of young people.
The potential of young people in football development has not been fully leveraged and utilized in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei. Besides the need for rapid development of soccer competitions at primary and secondary levels, college teams have not been actively encouraged and integrated into the local leagues in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei. During the rapid development of football in South Korea in the 1980s, some college teams played an indispensable role.
In addition, the National Football Association and the governments of Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei should function as true partnerships with at least some degree of healthy checks and balances. In this regard, the governments of Hong Kong and Macao have not contributed satisfactorily to the modernization of football. The role of governments should not only subsidize but also monitor and help the development of football. The Hong Kong government has in the past adopted a laissez-faire policy towards football development, leaving the HKFA without much help until very recently, when critics pointed out the governance problem. If the governments of Hong Kong and Macao are to promote the patriotism, national identity and social cohesion of local youth, they should at least monitor national football associations regularly and annually, requiring them to submit an annual report. and their progress to the legislature.
The Hong Kong athletic commissioner has shown his passion and interest in the performance of the Hong Kong national team in the 2022 World Cup qualifying round, but it will still be necessary to work in partnership with the HKFA to make the football a grassroots sport that can promote social cohesion. , identity of young people and concrete results. Likewise, in Macau, football development should be placed much higher on the political agenda of the Macau administration. Macau has some talented players, including the home-grown Portuguese (especially as Portuguese football has enjoyed impressive performances around the world) whose potential has yet to be fully utilized and unleashed.
Besides the rejuvenation of youth football, the rapid development of local coaches is urgently needed in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei. The performance of the Taipei national team improved significantly under Gary White’s leadership in 2017 and 2018, when its world ranking rose to 121 – the highest ranking in Taipei national football history. Hong Kong has also relied on foreign coaches to improve its ranking in the past; famous Korean coach Kim Pan-gon instilled a strong sense of local identity in Hong Kong players and supporters during his leadership of the national team from 2009 to 2016. The forgotten foreign coach of the Hong Kong national team Kong may have been the Dutch coach, the late Frans Van Balkom, who led Hong Kong to the last five strong teams in Asia in the 1977 World Cup qualifying competition.
Dependence on foreign coaches cannot really solve the fundamental problems of the development of local football in Hong Kong and Taipei. Local coaches need to be trained, prepared and given sufficient opportunity to accumulate their experiences. The use of local coaches in the direction of the Taipei national team is arguably an appropriate step forward, although more recent matches have shown that they need to gain more international experience. Even in China, the national team is now under the leadership of a famous former footballer, Li Tie, after the retirement of famous Italian coach Marcello Lippi.
Finally, the development of local football in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei should undoubtedly be supported by tax incentives. A tax exemption may be granted by the relevant government to commercial enterprises and private sector organizations that invest in the formation and growth of local football clubs. In this way, large companies can financially promote the development of football, as well as good governance of the national football association under the constant control and active assistance of the government, which should have a strategic plan so that the association achieves not only in five years but also in decades.
In conclusion, the modernization of football in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei must rekindle the interest and participation of young people, reorganize and reform the management of the national football association, formulate and implement long-term development plans. football, nurture and prepare local coaches, and provide substantial tax incentives for businesses and private sector organizations to invest in the formation and growth of local football clubs. There is no shortcut on the road to success, but the modernization of football remains a good and reliable indicator of the development of sport, social cohesion and governance capacity of Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei.