Kitchee coach hoping Hong Kong can cash in on Asian Champions League success

HONG KONG : Kitchee coach Alex Chu is hoping that the club’s historic breakthrough in the Asian Champions League will have a positive knock-on effect on investment in football in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Kitchee became the first side from the territory to advance beyond the group phase since the continental championship competition began in 2002.

The Hong Kong champions will take on Thailand’s BG Pathum United in the last 16 in August and Chu is optimistic that the club, and Hong Kong football in general, can cash in on their elevated status within the game in Asia.

“The last few years we’ve had very good results and the ranking for the club means Hong Kong can, for the next three or four years, have two positions in the group stage of the Asian Champions League,” Chu told Reuters.

“Maybe more rich guys or sponsors will be interested in investing their money in the clubs and they will have the chance to go into the group stages.

“It’s good for the future of Hong Kong teams.”

Hong Kong’s climb up the east Asian rankings to secure those extra spots has been fuelled largely by Kitchee’s performances, and they narrowly missed out on progressing from the group phase last season.

Their 2-2 draw with Vissel Kobe on Sunday finally clinched a place in the knockout phase as twice winners Ulsan Hyundai, Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale and A-League title holders Melbourne City all crashed out.

“In the last four or five years Kitchee have done a lot of good things,” said Chu. “We’ve found good foreign players, we’ve developed our youth team.

“We won a lot of trophies in the Hong Kong league, but in the Asian Champions League the level is very different.

“In the past, over 90 minutes we would defend but it’s not enough, we need to attack and have balance. This season has been better.”

The signing last year of former Montenegro international Dejan Damjanovic, a regular scorer in the competition during his time with FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings, has brought added firepower.

The 40-year-old became the Asian Champions League’s all-time record goalscorer during last season’s group phase and extended his career tally to 42 goals in the current campaign.

“We need to prepare well,” Chu said of the meeting with BG Pathum United.

“Before teams thought our level isn’t high, but they will want to understand more how we have gone to the second round.”

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