Ready for the weekend: Wellington Phoenix’s Hong Kong boy Calvin Harris gets Soccer Sevens homecoming
The 18-year-old recalls fanboying over his footballing idols at the Hong Kong Football Club tournament – now he returns as a player with the Australian A-League side’s academy
Hong Kong young gun Calvin Harris used to be your typical HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens teen – waiting impatiently beyond the barriers, autograph book at the ready as his favourite stars walked off the pitch.
“I was a bit of a fanboy back then,” said the 18-year-old, who marks his return to the tournament wearing Wellington Phoenix’s yellow and black stripes.
“I liked getting signatures off all the players and I idolised young players like Jack Grealish coming through. I always thought it would be cool to play in this tournament.”
Harris, born in England and a Hong Kong permanent resident, joined the New Zealand outfit after impressing scouts in an Asia-Pacific Football Academy match aged 14. He has been in Wellington ever since.
“I turned up on the day and was fortunate enough to get the offer. I took it as soon as I got it,” said the former Hong Kong Football Club youth player and West Island School student.
The Nix’s academy team are no strangers to the Sevens having featured multiple times in the past; Harris himself played in the last two editions, but this year’s homecoming is extra special.
“The grandad is over to watch [from England] so I’m very happy,” said Harris, whose parents live in Hong Kong.
“Seeing my family and friends in the city I still call home ... they were 100 per cent supportive [of the move] and thought it would be a great opportunity.”
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Harris has had to wait for a senior or reserve team call-up because of Fifa’s under-18 rule, which states that a player moving to another country for football reasons must wait until they are 18 years of age before they can play competitive football.
He has played in exhibition games and unsanctioned events such as the Sevens in the meantime.
Harris is also without a New Zealand or Australian passport and would be considered an import player, and A-League regulations only allow four import players per season.
Now of age, the playmaker is keen to show the senior team coaches back in New Zealand he deserves a professional contract.
“My dream is always to be a professional footballer. That’s all I want,” he said. “I’ve learned more about the physicality, tactics and techniques during my time here ... I’m covering all areas and that’s what the club have allowed me to do.
“I’ve continued to improve over the years with these top academy players. The competition and different levels makes you push harder,” he added.
And for those concerned with Harris’ performances off the pitch – that is, in the classroom – he reassures: “Phoenix is pretty linked with school so I get to do both sides of the equation. My parents are all for it as long as I’m enjoying myself.”
Wellington Phoenix will face Kashima Antlers (Japan), Yau Yee League Select (Hong Kong) and West Ham United (England) in the group stages at Mission Road on Saturday.