'Mum's my biggest fan'

Kevin Kung
Kevin Kung |

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Goalkeeper Douglas Yuen Ho-chun hopes he will soon make his Sun Pegasus first-team debut.
Douglas Yuen Ho-chun was chosen to play in goal originally only because he wasn't needed out on the pitch: he couldn't run fast enough to keep up with other players, so was picked to stand between the posts.

Yet today the Form Six student at La Salle College, in Kowloon, plays for the Hong Kong youth team and in the reserves at First Division side Sun Pegasus.

Douglas says his mother - as well as his coaches - has been a major reason for his success. "I'm lucky to have the full support of my mum," he says.

"Unlike most mothers in Hong Kong, who'd stop their sons spending most of their spare time on the football pitch, she gives me the freedom to enjoy the sport.

"My mum always accompanied me to training when I was a kid. Although she doesn't do it anymore, she still watches and often videotapes my matches in local competitions. She's like a friend who loves football."

Douglas, 17, admits he used to be fat. "I was definitely what you'd call a 'heavy' boy. I always had a very good appetite; I'd eat five bowls of rice at each meal."

When he was in Primary Four he joined the summer Youth Development Football Programme, run by the Hong Kong Football Association. "I took part in training in Wong Tai Sin District," he says. "I was sent to do goalkeeping training only because I couldn't run fast. I actually found it boring and didn't want to play there."

Despite his frustrations, he enrolled again the following summer. But this time everyone, including Douglas, performed so well that the coach recommended they join the Wong Tai Sin District's youth team.

Douglas says training with the district team made him a more dedicated goalkeeper. "It feels great when I save a good shot by an opponent. When penalty shoot-outs decide the winners of a match, I don't feel nervous, either. I am excited; I treat the penalties as my 'show time'."

When he was in Form Two, after two seasons with Wong Tai Sin, Douglas joined the youth team of First Division side South China Athletic Association. He was also selected for Hong Kong's under-14 team.

"Training with the Hong Kong team was the toughest thing I'd done," he says. "Because of all the extra training and exercise, I lost weight, put on muscle and became much fitter. Being more agile and active helped to improve my performance in matches, too."

In 2010, when he was in Form Three, his improved form led Sun Pegasus - previously known as Tin Shui Wai Pegasus - to sign him. Yet his delight turned to frustration after the very first training session.

"I saw players at the club were of a much higher standard and I had to improve a lot."

Yet Douglas was inspired by Yaap Hung-fai, whose goalkeeping heroics helped Hong Kong win the gold medal at the 2009 East Asian Games. "Yaap is always confident; you can almost feel a fire burning inside him," Douglas says. "He gives the impression that the team can rely on him. Besides trying to improve my skills, I tried to learn from Yaap's style, and play a more active role in giving support to teammates."

Douglas, who helped his school team win back-to-back inter-school titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, is now in his third season with Sun Pegasus. He is no longer nervous about shouting instructions to his more senior and experienced teammates.

"I was scared to do it before," he says. "But this is what a goalkeeper should do. I'm like a general observing soldiers at the edge of the pitch. My position at the back means that I see things others can't. I should be fearless and tell players what I see."

Although Douglas is still waiting to make his Sun Pegasus first-team debut, is now a core Hong Kong youth team player.

This summer, he became the youngest player - when aged 16 - to be named in the Hong Kong under-22 squad as they prepare for the qualifying matches of the 2013 Asian Football Confederation's Under-22 Championship.

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