Kitchee Trio Held AFC U-16 Qualifiers Experience i

It was two years ago that the then-Hong Kong Under-16 Representative Team created history and made it all the way to the AFC U-16 Championship Finals in Thailand. Cheng Chin-lung, Ngan Cheuk-pan and Harima Hirokane, members of that particular Hong Kong Under-16 side, have since continued their progression and have broken into the Kitchee first team. Two years have gone by and while the latest crop of the Hong Kong Under-16 Representative Team recently crashed out of the AFC Under-16 Championship Qualifiers in Mongolia, Kitchee players including Jonathan Cheung, Yu Wing-hong and Sun Ming-him – all represented Hong Kong in the qualifiers, still held the experience in very high regard. Hong Kong originally found itself located in Group K of the qualifiers, facing Japan, host-nation Mongolia and Brunei. However, with the latter dropping out from the competition, only Japan and Mongolia were left to take on Hong Kong as the qualifiers kicked-off. Hong Kong started the first game against Mongolia brilliantly, with Jonathan Cheung converting his penalty-kick to put his side in front. The team then proceeded to defeat the host-nation in a 5:2 victory. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s young guns crashed and burnt in the second game and was handed a tough 0:7 defeat by Japan, sealing its fate in the qualifiers. Hong Kong Under-16 captain Jonathan Cheung admitted that results in the qualifiers were far from satisfying but still deemed the experience invaluable. “We did not do too well in the qualifiers but overall, it was a great experience for us young players. We gave it our best shot in every game and I think that was the most important thing. The previous Under-16 team made it to the Finals and of course that gave us a bit of pressure. However, we did not dwell on that and instead, we stayed calm and did not allow the pressure to affect our play,” Cheung said upon his return to Hong Kong. Yu Wing-hong received limited playing time in Mongolia and only made it off the bench against Japan. Yet the youngster maintained the little playing-time actually left a lasting impression on him. “From my short time on the pitch, I realized the huge gap between myself and the Japanese players. In addition, I was also thoroughly impressed by their superior team-play,” the forward confessed. “We do not have a lot of youth teams to compete against in Hong Kong and the competition is quite easy. You get on the international stage and that is when you realize how inferior you are in the grand scheme of things.” Sun Ming-him, who started both games in the qualifiers, is determined to use the experience as a motivation to get better down the road. “Playing both games in the qualifiers turned out to be really beneficial, allowing myself to understand the gap between myself and the opponents. Hopefully, I can catch up to the competition in the near future, thus improving my play on the pitch,” offered the young striker. “I believe the difference in terms of fitness was what led to the big defeat against Japan. We allowed five goals in the last twenty minutes but at least we demonstrated that we could play with them for the majority of the game.”