Hong Kong female soccer star Cheung Wai-ki strikes blow for equality with landmark pro deal at Australia’s Brisbane Roar

The 26-year-old impressed the Aussie team during a four-day trial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 12:32pm

Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe hailed another landmark for women’s soccer in the city as international player Cheung Wai-ki signed for Brisbane Roar in Australia’s professional league.

Forward Cheung, 26, has signed a one-year deal in the elite W-League after catching the eye of Australia’s national team manager during a recent tournament.

Cheung, who has been supporting herself as a waiter in a cha chaan teng (street cafe), previously tried to make it as a pro in Japan, but had to return for family reasons.

She said she still felt like she was dreaming when she heard the news that Brisbane liked what they saw during a recent four-day trial and had decided to offer her a deal.

“This is a fantastic achievement and I wish her well,” writes Sutcliffe in a blog to be published on Tuesday.

“Over the last few years I have taken pride in watching her and others in her cohort developing from players with enthusiasm and potential into really talented footballers.

“This success is all the more remarkable when you consider that it’s only about five years ago that the HKFA took over the responsibility for girls and women’s football. We now spend many millions of dollars on developing this side of the game.

Hong Kong history-maker Chan Yuen-ting named AFC Women’s Coach of the Year at annual awards bash

“To some people it’s not important but to me it is fundamental. Girls and women have just as much right as boys and men to play football and they derive an equal amount of benefit and pleasure from playing.”

Hong Kong previously made history for women in soccer as Chan Yuen-ting became the first female coach to guide a men’s team to a league title in a top professional league when she led Eastern to the HK Premier League crown.

Fighting for equality: Law Bik-chi plans to be first woman to referee a Hong Kong Premier League match

And referee Gigi Law Bik-chi is one of the few female Fifa-qualified officials in Asia.

“Girls and women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the world and Hong Kong is at the forefront of this change. The phenomenal success of coach Chan Yuen-ting and referee Gigi Law are just two examples of Hong Kong’s pre-eminence,” added Sutcliffe.

“Most of the credit for this transformation must go to our women’s football manager, Betty Wong. She has been involved in football for a long time and I was delighted when she decided to join us full-time in May 2013. Since then she has established girls youth leagues, a women’s league and HKRTs at U12, U14, U16, U18 as well as further enhancing the senior women’s team. Betty has done an amazing job and we are lucky to have her.

“I hope that Wai-ki is the first of many ‘exports’ to professional women’s leagues because she will undoubtedly develop even more by training and playing at a higher level. This can only be good for us moving forward. It will not be easy for her either personally or professionally and we should give her as much support as possible.”

Cheung said she did not feel far-off the technical and physical standard of the Brisbane players and felt the language barrier would be her most difficult challenge.

The Roar are two-time champions of the W-League, which is entering its 10th season. They finished seventh last season.

The women’s team will play five double-headers with the men’s team at the 52,000-capacity SunCorp Stadium this season, while Fox Sports will broadcast 27 W-League games.

“I am pleased to welcome Wai-ki to the Brisbane Roar family,” head coach Mel Andreatta said on the club’s website.

“She brings more experience to our team and will be an important part of our attack.

“I hope our supporters will be as excited as we are to see her in action at Suncorp Stadium this coming season.”

Details of Cheung’s contract were not revealed, but it will be far, far removed from the riches on offer to male players.

The W-League announced a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday saying players’ average annual salary would rise from A$6,909 to A$15,500 (HK$43,249 to HK$97,027) this season and to $17,400 (HK$108,921) the next.