Remember Kim Pan-Gon?
Hong Kong football fans definitely do.
Kim was the manager who was willing to die for Hong Kong.
Kim’s passion and commitment towards Hong Kong football was truly for all to see as he often wore his heart on his sleeve.
Kim’s name is associated with the brief resurgence and renaissance of Hong Kong football, which began just under a decade ago with the zenith being Hong Kong’s two nail-biting nil-all draws with China during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Kim’s philosophy had rubbed off onto the HK players and they gave their all. A ticket to Hong Kong’s world cup qualifiers at Mong Kok stadium became must-have items.
Hong Kong football often has very little to shout about and fans have been success-starved for decades, though Kim remains a fan favourite for engineering Hong Kong football’s greatest results in recent memory. Kim is now part of the South Korean Football Association’s national team supervisory committee which oversees the strategic long term growth of the South Korean team by hiring coaches who fit their long term objectives.
When in charge of Hong Kong, Kim was realistic about the standard of Hong Kong football. However, he also knew that confidence and mentality were key factors that could see Hong Kong punching above their weight.
Kim’s footballing philosophy and vision included an attitude that players recognise the privilege and responsibility that comes with playing for the Hong Kong team.
“The national team players did not understand how much of a privilege it was to play for Hong Kong. It was important that these players know what it meant to be playing football to represent a country.”
Changing the Mentality
Kim helped to foster a positive mentality which also filtered into the domestic league as teams also fared well in continental competitions.
“Many labeled Hong Kong as the underdog in most competitions. Implementing a winning mentality in our players was very significant for success on the pitch.”
In short, were players willing to Die for Hong Kong? What did the phrase exactly mean to Kim who tries hard to embody it in all that he does.
“The phrase, ‘Die for Hong Kong’, had two meanings. For the players, it was about creating a winning culture and a mentality that when you step on the pitch, you play till you ‘die’ and ‘win.’ For me, it was a reminder of the opportunity that Hong Kong football gave me. When Hong Kong accepted me to lead the national team. From then, my mentality was to die for Hong Kong.”
Kim has both playing and coaching experience in the K -League and now in his current role is well placed to discuss the evolution of both the K League and the South Korea team in recent decades in terms of style of coaching and tactics.
“As it is for any national team, the quality of its domestic league eventually leads to the quality of the national team. K League clubs are using a wide variety of tactics both in offence and defense. As a result, more and more players are accustomed to working with different styles of football and tactical approach. The player’s understanding of tactics is higher.”
Videos: The World Cup 2018 qualifier defeat (in 2017) below lead to a managerial change for South Korea and Shin Tae-Yong (now manager of Indonesia) eventually took South Korea to Russia 2018.
All organizations’ cultures and philosophies come from the top and it is crucial that a coach or manager can communicate their ideas down and that everyone adheres to these concepts and understands.
Video: Lee Dong- Gook, K League Icon and the first half of his looooong career.
Video: The 2nd half…
“My goal was to lead the players to be purpose-driven when they are representing Hong Kong. I also wanted to establish a system that continues to develop young talents.”
The Long Game
Kim remains keen to continue the development of the game he loves in South Korea. In the future, though, he would love to become a team manager again and is ambitious enough to aim for a large club or a national team.
“As the technical director at the Korea Football Association, I will continue to do my part in developing the Korean football system especially in improving the performance of each national team and football environment for youth players.
Another Role as Manager?
Kim has an excellent reputation and his name has been linked with clubs in both the K-League and the Chinese Super League.
“When I am done serving my mission as the technical director in Korea, I would like to challenge myself to manage a bigger club or country’s national team. Recently, I have heard about interests from clubs in the K League and China Super League. Although I currently maintain my duty as South Korea’s technical director, I am grateful for their interest in me to place me as their manager.”
A Heart for Hong Kong
Kim still maintains close ties to Hong Kong and follows their results and only wishes the best for the team.
“Yes, Hong Kong football leagues are developing each year and the quality of youth players is also improving. I look forward to the future of Hong Kong football. As a fan and as a citizen of Hong Kong, I will continue to support Hong Kong!”
Wherever Kim ends up, there is no doubt he will mould a winning mentality and philosophy and bring his infectious passion, drive and commitment and devote himself 100% to the job.
Kim wrote himself into Hong Kong football folklore and there is no doubt that HK fans will wish him well in all his future endeavours.