Tan Chun-lok leads by example as Hong Kong draw with Guangdong in Interport Cup
The 19-year-old captained the side in their 1-1 stalemate in the first leg and scored the equaliser
Youngster Tan Chun-lok was hailed as the leader of a new generation of Hong Kong stars after their 1-1 draw in the first leg of the annual Interport Cup against Guangdong on Thursday night.
The 19-year-old midfielder was appointed the team captain by coach Liu Chun-fai in a team featuring mostly up-and-coming players, becoming possibly the youngest ever skipper for Hong Kong.
And Tan did not let the team down after heading home the equaliser in front of a crowd of 4,200 at Mong Kok Stadium.
“I have no hesitation to give him the armband,” said coach Liu. “He is young but it doesn’t mean he is not good enough. Tan has featured in the World Cup qualifiers and can certainly play a regular part in the squad despite his age.
“His appointment can show to other young players that if you work hard, you can get the chance.”
Hong Kong rested most of their internationals after a hectic World Cup qualifiers schedule, with the only exception being 35-year-old Manoel dos Santos, who was making his debut for Hong Kong after obtaining his passport in November.
But the young lions showed no shortage of courage, dominating possession especially in the first half. Lee Ka-yiu should have opened the scoring for the home side in the early stage, but his shot from 12 metres surprisingly went wide of target,
Defying the run of play, Guangdong went into the lead through a solo effort by Cai Jingyuan on 25 minutes. The Shenzhen player cut in from the left and let loose a low drive to the far corner, givingthe goalkeeper no chance.
But their jubilation was short-lived as captain Tan soon found the equaliser. Dos Santos, who will join China League One club Tianshan Leopard next month, sent in corner from the right for Tan to head home the equaliser.
“The captaincy, coupled with the goal, has certainly boosted my confidence,” said the Pegasus midfielder. “I have been more on the defending side and am very delighted with the goal.
“There is still a lot more for me to learn at international level as I suffered some lapses of concentration close to the end. I must improve.”
Tan won a scholarship in 2009, allowing him to complete his high school studies in Britain. He then signed a professional contract with Peterborough United the following year after a six-week trial.
He returned to Hong Kong in 2013 and joined Pegasus and was selected to represent Hong Kong at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon where he broke his leg in the match against Bangladesh. But he recovered soon before making his senior debut for Hong Kong against Thailand in 2015.
“Every player is waiting for one chance and the Interport is the chance for young players. I am happy I could grasp it when it came,” said Tan.
Dos Santos, who was playing his first match for Hong Kong, said he had been waiting for his chance for eight years.
“I think I can do more for Hong Kong and with New Year coming, this is a new resolution for me,” he said.
The second leg will be held in Guangzhou on Sunday.