Hong Kong Fantasy Premier League manager among world’s best but wants Liverpool title more than top spot as he battles cancer
- Kenneth Tang is regarded as one of the game’s elite managers, ranked among the top five in several metrics over the course of his Fantasy career
- The 39-year-old puts Reds success ahead of coming first of the six million FPL managers
Kenneth Tang Kin-wai is remarkably calm. We had been arranging to meet for some time to talk about his remarkable achievements in the Fantasy Premier League online competition, where the Hongkonger is regarded as one of the game’s elite managers, but things kept coming up.
When we finally do meet it is just days after Tang has been diagnosed with stage four sino-nasal cancer, which he has been told stretches to the scalp base and orbit of his eye.
“I should be OK,” he said. “The success rate is quite high.”
His own success rate up to now has been nothing short of astronomical, not just at fantasy football.
The 39-year-old was China’s Texas hold’em poker champion three years ago in “just his third or fourth” tournament and used his own model to gamble at casinos.
“I wouldn’t say it was gambling, actually, it was investing. That’s how I got my first pool of money. The problem is when you keep using the long-term winning formula, you will get banned by the casinos.”
He’s aware of the similarities in his fields of interest and it also explains why he managed to beat his friends in the fantasy NBA competition, despite not watching basketball.
“Every match there is 100-something to 100-something, you know? A lot of rebounds, a lot of field goals. Much easier because the stat is a lot more standard, a lot more static. Too easy.”
His Fantasy success is also key to his cryptocurrency algorithm trading business.
“Playing Fantasy is very casual to me but I put it into my biography with my business. They can connect that, that I am using similar skills.
“Fantasy competition is a game that you need to manage a lot of data of the players and you need a prediction model because everyone has the same budget.”
There are similarities, he said, in creating an algorithm.
“It’s quite similar to when we invest in stocks or cryptos, there are so many ways to invest them but we need to find some ways that by observation it should work but then we need a whole process to test it, to use big data. Then we need to find the parameters.”
Tang has stepped aside from his various businesses to concentrate on his health.
It’s fair to say things have changed since he was profiled in the South China Morning Post nine years ago, not least in his own family circumstances.
Back then, Tang had just met his now wife Tweety and they had not even started dating. Nine-month-old son Kaleb is an even more recent addition.
The Fantasy Premier League has also swelled from two million users in 2002 to almost six million but Tang has remained towards the top, although he has struggled this season.
“This year is my busiest year so I put less time in the 2018-19 season – and the result is worse than my other seasons so far.
“Normally, if possible, everyday I will spend one to two hours to read all the news to get back to the analysis. Before deadline, if possible, I could spend five to six hours.
“But if not maybe three minutes,” he laughed. “It depends.”
That means he will occasionally pick his team on the MTR like the rest of us but he prefers his desktop with the big screen and his spreadsheet and what he considers important, a philosophy that he laid out in forensic detail over a couple of hours.
“I enjoy the process more than the result. I can’t control the result. It’s still probability. Huddersfield can score against Spurs. Aaron Mooy can score two.”
Nonetheless, FPL takes his interest more than anything else. “I love soccer, the Premier League and Liverpool,” he said.
His love for the Merseyside team stems from when he first started watching football as a child.
“They were on TV. [Peter] Beardsley, Ian Rush, John Barnes, [Steve] Nicol, [Bruce] Grobbelaar,” Tang remembered, “They were the best team at that time in England.”
Tang also credits his amateur football experience for some of his success.
“Being the coach of my own team helps me a lot,” he explained, it made him think why some coaches are better than others.
He has coached Queen Dragon, a team of former schoolmates, who are now all approaching their 40s, for the last 20 years. He is also the team sponsor and has played for them throughout, but that will change.
That could mean more time for Fantasy. Does he think he can ever crack the top 100 in a single season?
“Before I knew my health problems, I would have said no to getting in the top 100. But now I’d say yes. I think I’m that good.
“In many worldwide rankings I am in top 10. So I should be inside the top 50.”
What if it’s a choice between breaking the top 100 or a Premier League title for his beloved Liverpool?
“Liverpool win the Premier League.”
Top 10? “Even the champion, [I would choose] Liverpool. Of course, winning both is the best. I just hope for Liverpool; I can see them [being] champions of the Premier League in my life. After that the next season I can win Fantasy.”
As for his son joining him among the ranks of FPL managers, Tang thinks that “seven is a good time to start” but there will be no pressure.
“At the start I will just let him to enjoy the game. Pick the most handsome players. The players he likes. Even if they are on the bench.”
Tang will be out of action for a couple of weeks when he travels to Taiwan for surgery, where he will stay for follow-up treatment.
He seemed more concerned about whether he would be able to see Liverpool in action on Boxing Day.