Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Coming full circle: Pioneer female coach Chan Yuen-ting wants a flying start to 2017

One of world’s most famous women’s coaches returns to the scene that started a phenomenon last year as her charges face Kitchee in the Senior Shield final

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 7:53pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2017, 12:22am

Chan Yuen-ting’s sensational season of 2016 comes full circle in 2017 as Eastern play for the season’s first piece of domestic silverware, a competition that started the phenomenon of one the world’s most famous female coaches.

Chan was appointed coach 13 months ago in December 2015 and within a few weeks of her appointment she was thrust straight into the limelight with her first major assignment – a Senior Shield final against Southern.

“It has been a year and so many things have happened. Time really flies,” said Chan, who tasted her first success quickly at just 27 with Eastern defeating Southern 2-0 to lift one of Hong Kong’s oldest domestic trophies.

All eyes will be on Chan again as she takes her charges to the field at Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but she says she’ll be ready and so will her team. She said she had become more mentally prepared than 2016 having soaked in a glorious year of experience in charge of a club who also won the Hong Kong Premier League, elevating her to a status that gained her the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Chan said she had put her players through their paces at Kowloon Tsai Park in preparation for the challenge as they meet arch rivals Kitchee, who are also eager to start 2017 with a bang.

“I remember I could not sleep for a week when we prepared for this final last year but fortunately I am having good sleep now and I’m not as nervous as before. I have one year’s experience and that counts,” she said.

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“Indeed, I am a much more mature person after going through a spectacular year with the club and hopefully we can enjoy another successful start to the year,” said the coach who is nicknamed “Beef Ball” in Cantonese because of her initial stubbornness.

After lifting the 2016 Senior Shield, Chan went on to lead Eastern to the Premier League title, becoming the first female coach in the world to clinch a men’s top-flight league title. Her exploits quickly gained her a number of accolades as she was elected the Hong Kong Football Association’s coach of the year, while also being named among the BBC’s top 100 women. Last month, she was voted female coach of the year by the Asian Football Confederation.

“I could never have dreamed of this success in 2016 but I must put all these things behind me and prepare for new challenges ahead in 2017,” said Chan.

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“In the end, I may not be able to win as many titles as last year but the most important thing is how I handle these challenges, learn from them and make myself a better person. The process is always important rather than just looking for results.”

Chan said she is determined to lead Eastern to back-to-back Senior Shield titles to get 2017 off to a flying start.

“We are ready to fight for the honour again but Kitchee will be out to win as well,” she said.

“We have maintained a strong team spirit and the players know each other well and work well with each other. Eastern will be ready.

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“The Senior Shield is the first title of the season and it would be a big boost if we win it, especially as Eastern are the two-time defending champions as well.”

Kitchee will likely field their newcomer, former South Korea international defender Kim Dong-jin, while another new arrival, Krisztian Vadocz, a former Hungary international, may start on the bench.