Final whistle blows on teammates
When results of the last Hong Kong A-level exams are released tomorrow, it will signal the beginning of the end for footballing friends Andy Chu Keng-hong, Michael Chung Yan-hon and Jacky Cheuk Tak-fung.
The Form Seven graduates of Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School, in Po Lam, will follow different career paths: Chu, 18, plans to study environmental science; Cheuk, 19, will focus on physics; and Chung, also 19, on history.
Yet none of them will forget the days they have shared together playing football for their school.
Chu and Chung joined the school team in Form One, and Cheuk in Form Two. They practised two hours every Monday and Wednesday at Po Lam's Po Tsui Park, and often played friendly games on other weekdays.
Over the past few years, the team have tried to boost support from their fellow students by uploading highlights of their matches onto YouTube.
'Last year, on behalf of the team, I sent an appeal to the whole school, calling for support,' Chu says.
'We were facing a really tough quarter-final match. When we played, we had about 70 school friends cheering us on - which made such a difference - and we won. We went on to finish third.'
Chu, who plays as a striker, says watching matches involving Kitchee - the First Division club who played home matches in Tseung Kwan O from the start of the 2010-11 season - inspired him as a player. 'I think I've watched about 80 per cent of their home matches,' he says.
'I've had the chance to watch high-quality matches near my home. I've tried to copy some attacking tactics in our matches.'
Chung and Cheuk have also watched Kitchee play.
This season, the team hoped to be A-grade champions and play in the All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Tournament. But they were beaten in the semi-finals by TSA William Booth Secondary School, and again, in the third-place play-off, by St Bonaventure College and High School. 'Losing both matches was so disappointing,' says Cheuk, who is also a striker. 'I really wanted to play in the Jing Ying Tournament. I couldn't hide my sadness and cried.'
However, their team's fine form inspired other school players. The B-grade team finished third this season, and the C-grade team were runners-up, which ensured the school ended as overall champions and will now be in Division Two.
The trio have happy memories of their footballing days. 'We've been lucky to play together for a long time - even after taking the HKCEE and studying in Form Six,' they say. 'Our team gained a great deal of support this season thanks to our efforts,' says Cheung, who plays in midfield.
The trio still share one last target as a team. 'We will play together, probably for the last time, in the knockout Joint-School Invitational, which ends on July 2. We want to beat all the other teams so we finish our secondary school careers with a perfect memory,' they say.
They also have the Euro 2012 final on their minds. To mark the school's footballing success this season, the players and former players have been invited to the school hall to watch the European Championship final on July 2.
'The final kicks off at midnight,' Chu says. 'We've never done anything like this all together before, so I think everyone will really enjoy the special occasion.'