Cheung Chau win place among 'elite'
Outlying island school teams often struggle to compete in sporting events as they have fewer students to choose from compared to bigger rival schools from Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Yet this season, Cheung Chau Government Secondary School have finally qualified for the prestigious Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Football Tournament - a knockout competition for the city's top 32 secondary school teams.
Cheung Chau secured a place after reaching the Grade A boys' final in the Tsuen Wan and Islands inter-school competition. Last season they came third - losing to champions HKFEW Wong Cho Bau Secondary School in the semi-finals.
'After missing out last time, everyone was dreaming of reaching this season's Jing Ying tournament,' says goalkeeper Peter Chan Yik-tsun, a Form Five student. 'We were leading 2-1 against YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College in the semi-final, but they equalised only seconds before the final whistle.'
A mix-up between Peter and his defenders led to the goal. 'I was very upset.' Peter says.
In the penalty shootout for a place in the final, KC Ng Kai-chung, a Form Six student, who plays as a forward, took Peter's place in goal. 'I was still confident of victory at that time, so I suggested that I go in goal for the penalties,' KC says.
Cheung Chau scored all four of the penalties, and an inspired KC saved two penalties, as they won the shootout 4-1.
In the inter-school final, Cheung Chau were outclassed - losing 6-1 to Beacon College (Tsuen Wan), the Jing Ying title favourites this season. KC scored the consolation goal.
PE teacher Raymond Suen Wing-kai says the team have improved this season after practising on grass pitches, rather than the concrete surface at school, and organising friendlies against other schools.
Some members of the team, such as captain Jacky Wong Wing-fai, a Form Six player, and Form Five midfielder Leung Yat-hei, have improved after playing for Hong Kong Blake Garden Athletic Association in Hong Kong's Third Division. Forward Kwok Man-lok has benefited, too, after appearing in the RTHK football reality show, A Kick to Success, last year.
Yet reaching the Jing Ying Tournament has meant additional challenges for the team.
Their first-round game last Sunday - when they beat Chan Shu Kui Memorial School, the Division Three, Kowloon Area One champions, 1-0 - kicked off in Happy Valley Recreation Ground at 11am.
This meant the team endured a 6am alarm call so they could catch the 7.30am ferry to Central, and have enough time to warm up before the match.
'We normally play in Tsuen Wan, so it meant a long journey by ferry, bus or MTR to Happy Valley. But the boys still did a great job,' Suen says.
Wong Kwong-wing, the school's principal, and some of his colleagues were there to cheer the team on as Form Five winger Kwok Ka-on scored in the eighth minute.
The game - 70 minutes long instead of the 50 minutes of the qualifiers - became tense as Cheung Chau battled to defend their lead. They were tired at the end, and some players left nursing injuries.
Ka-on said: 'The game was a real test of our fitness. I felt nervous, too, before I scored. I just hope we can defend even better next time.'
They face CCC Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School, the Tuen Mun inter-school champions, in the last 16, at 11am at Happy Valley Recreation Ground on Sunday.