“I hope that when the fans come to the stadium, they will see a team that wants to attack, that wants to win, that wants to be aggressive, and that they can be proud of.” – Jørn Andersen
New Hong Kong men’s team head coach Jørn Andersen met the media for the first time on Friday, the 14th, after his appointment was announced last month. He replaces fellow Scandanavian, Mixu Paatelainen, who departed the role after Hong Kong were eliminated from qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
The 58 year old is a former Norway international and was the first foreign player to win the Bundesliga’s Golden Boot, achieving the feat in 1990. Andersen retired in 2001 and coached various German and Austrian clubs before managing North Korea for two years, where he led the North Koreans to qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup. His contract was mutually terminated in March 2018 due to international sanctions on the country and then later spent nine months at K League club, Incheon United, before he was sacked in April 2019.
After completing his three week quarantine, Andersen was given a tour of the Hong Kong Football Association’s office and the Football Training Centre in Tsueng Kwan O on 4 January. However, Friday was the first time that members of the media had a chance to speak with the new head coach and learn about his plans for the Hong Kong team.
Andersen revealed that he watched Hong Kong’s ten most recent matches during his quarantine period and admitted that he did not like much of what he saw.
“In the last ten matches, there was only one win. The rest were draws or losses,” he said. “In most of these matches, it seems that Hong Kong only defended. If you only defend and play on the counter, then it is difficult to win. That was my first impression of the team.
“I will try to make Hong Kong more aggressive, sometimes try to press the opponent, don’t let them come too easy into our half, not too easy attacking our goal. That’ll be my first important point from the beginning. Of course, it will take some time before the team can play the way that I want, but I believe that I can do it.”
The former striker conceded that every team must defend to an extent, though he believes that they must still try to win the game.
“When we play teams that are equal to us, we must not be defensive.” he continued. “We need to be more aggressive so that when we win the ball back, it will be easier to score because we are already closer to (the opponent’s) goal.”
Andersen admitted that he had spoken with Paatelainen by phone and gained some useful insight about the Hong Kong team before agreeing to take the job. He also revealed that he had spoken with some of his potential squad members at the FTC, believed to be Tan Chun-lok, Leung Nok-hang, and Li Ngai-hoi, who have returned to Hong Kong from the mainland after their seasons have ended.
As is always the case when there is a new head coach, reporters were curious to know Andersen’s criteria on squad selection, particularly when it comes to naturalized players. The Norweigian coach, who is also a naturalized German, stated that he had only one criterion: “It depends on whether he fits my tactics and has the quality that I want, but the most important thing is to pick the best players to build the best team.”
The HKFA had initially planned a training camp during the international break, running from 23 January to 1 February, so that Andersen could hold sessions with the locally based players. However, the HKFA were forced to shut down the FTC last week, in line with the government’s recent COVID-related restrictions on public recreational facilities. The government also announced on Friday that it would extend those restrictions until 3 February as it hopes to achieve ‘COVID Zero’.
The coach admitted that he had watched a lot of tape of his players and that he had a good understanding of them but noted that the most important thing is to see them play in person. On that front, he revealed that efforts have been made but the ball was in the government’s court.
“I really want to use these two international breaks (in January and March) to meet with the players, to train them and play friendlies, if possible,” Andersen said. “We are also discussing with the government about the possibility of having the training camp under a bubble. I hope for good news, but we expect that it is more realistic for March.”
In December, the HKFA issued fines to and banned 11 players from representing Hong Kong for a year following a drinking binge which occurred during the Hong Kong U23s trip to Japan in October. When asked about the incident, CEO Joe Tam had said that if a player wanted to drink a little alcohol in their own hotel room, that would be, in his words, “OK”.
But Andersen had a contrasting view to that of the CEO.
“The staff and the players, we’re the only ones from Hong Kong, for our Hong Kong team,” he stated, firmly, while admitting that he did not know all of the details. “We have to be professional, you have to work as a professional. We won’t allow drinking alcohol when you’re with the national team or travelling with the team. That is not possible.
“Of course, it’s not good news to lose any players for a year, but I will build the best squad I can with the players that I can choose from.”
Andersen revealed that his contract runs until July 2023 but hoped to remain longer.
“During the term, especially this year, there are many important matches,” the coach said. “If everything goes well, and I can stay even longer, then I believe that we can achieve even better results.”
At the end of the press conference, Andersen gave the following message to Hong Kong supporters: “I hope that when the fans come to the stadium, they will see a team that wants to attack, that wants to win, that wants to be aggressive, and that they can be proud of.
“There are a lot of strong teams in Asia and it won’t be easy. But the team will try to win and show fans that we’re not only about defending.”