Hong Kong should have a women’s professional soccer league, says star player Wai Yuen-ting
- Hong Kong will compete in the EAFF Championship against China, Taiwan and Mongolia in Guam this weekend
- The part-time coach is concerned a lot of her teammates cannot make the trip because of work commitments
Hong Kong women’s soccer is moving in the right direction but there is still a long way to go before attacking midfielder Wai Yuen-ting and her fellow players can realise their dream in the sport: turn professional.
“The goal should be to set up a professional league in Hong Kong for women’s soccer so that we can be fully committed to the sport,” said the 26-year-old, who will lead Hong Kong in the second round of the East Asian Football Federation Championship that kicks off in Guam this weekend.
“We are making good progress, thanks to growing support from the governing bodies as you can see from our recent performances. But we still have to prove ourselves at international level before we can have our own professional league.”
The Guam event will be the third major tournament for Hong Kong after the Asian Games in August and the 2020 Olympic Asian zone qualifiers held earlier this month.
“Some of our teammates cannot go to Guam because they can’t take the time off as they are busy with their full-time jobs. It’s not easy for them to compete in three overseas tournaments in a row,” said Wai, who scored a brace against Lebanon in the Olympic qualifiers.
“Fortunately I am working as a part-time soccer coach and if I’m called up for national duty, someone else can fill in for me. But some of my teammates don’t have the same flexibility due to their job commitments.”
Hong Kong were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Asian Games this summer. Their only victory was a 6-1 win over Tajikistan in the group stage that included big losses against China and North Korea, losing 7-0 and 8-0 respectively. They were then beaten by South Korea 5-0 in the last eight.
However, earlier this month in Bangkok, Hong Kong looked a whole lot better, defeating Lebanon 4-0 before holding Iran to a 1-1 draw to reach the second round of the Olympic qualifiers.
Wai, who holds a philosophy degree from the University of Washington, tried her luck with a professional five-a-side Japanese team in Urayasu near Tokyo recently, but she didn’t make the grade.
“Japan has a very high standard in women’s soccer, even their five-a-side clubs are very strong,” she said. “I will stay in Hong Kong and wait for opportunities.”
The Hong Kong women’s league has expanded to 15 teams this season with eight teams in the top flight, including Citizen which Wei plays for and other powerhouses such as defending champions Kitchee, Chelsea (HK) and Happy Valley. “We never had so many teams in the league, thanks to the development at grass-roots level,” she said. “We hope to see more youngsters come through the ranks and some day we will have a professional league.”
Hong Kong will take on Taiwan in the EAFF Championship (round two) on Saturday before challenging China and then Mongolia.
“We may not be able to qualify for the EAFF Championship finals next year as only one team will go through from the second round, but at least we have to show our determination,” she said.
At the Football Club Ground two years ago, the hosts were thrashed 5-0 by Taiwan in their opening game before Hong Kong suffered a humiliating 14-0 defeat by South Korea. Hong Kong defeated Guam 1-0 in their last match.
Schedule for Hong Kong in EAFF Championship (second round) in Guam
December 1: Hong Kong v Taiwan: kick-off 9am (HK time)
December 3: Hong Kong v China: kick-off 9am (HK time)
December 5: Hong Kong v Mongolia: kick-off 9am (HK time)