HK prodigy Dylan Tombides in debut for West Ham while battling cancer
Tombides tells of joy at playing for first team in League Cup clash while still having treatment
A former Hong Kong football prodigy made his first-team debut for English Premier League club West Ham United just over a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Australian Dylan Tombides played with the Brazilian Soccer School in Yau Ma Tei for more than a season.
He went on to join the first-team squad at the London club, who were promoted to the Premier League last season.
The 18-year-old came on as an 84th-minute substitute in the Hammers' 4-1 League Cup defeat to fellow Premier League side Wigan Athletic at Upton Park in London on Wednesday night.
After the game Tombides, who is still receiving treatment, tweeted his delight at getting a game for Sam Allardyce's side.
"To be involved tonight and get on the pitch while going through treatment is so rewarding … Shame about the result," he tweeted. "Thanking all fans, friends and family who have messaged me tonight congratulating me. I hope to repay you with goals in the near future!!"
The Tombides family moved from Australia to Macau, where Dylan's mother had got a job, in January 2007. During their 14 months in Macau, Dylan travelled to Hong Kong each week to play for the soccer school.
He would arrive to train on Friday night and then play on Saturday morning before returning to Macau the same evening. If there were tournaments, he would stay the whole weekend.
In October 2008, the family moved to London, where Dylan signed for West Ham United. A gifted centre forward, he was named the team's Academy Player of the Year in the 2010-11 season and featured in the first-team squad for their final 2010-11 Premier League fixture against Sunderland.
In June last year, he played for Australia in the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, scoring against Ivory Coast. But then came the shock diagnosis of a tumour on one of his testicles.
The tumour was removed swiftly, but because of the chemotherapy he lost 10kg. He had another operation in January to remove a 10cm blood clot in his abdomen and cancer cells in his lymph nodes.
"We still keep in touch with [the Brazilian Soccer School]," Dylan told the Post in June. "We made many friends while in Macau and Hong Kong, and Facebook and Twitter enabled me to receive a number of get well messages and support."