Hong Kong footballer Axel Adler on facing tougher rivals at the NCAA level in the US

By Ben Young

After earning a full sports scholarship to the University of California Irvine in the US, he tells Young Post that you can never stop improving

By Ben Young |

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Axel Adler is training hard to prepare for the more physical nature of the game in the US.

Axel Adler’s football talent earned him a full scholarship to a top American university. Now he’s focused on becoming a top-level professional athlete.

“Of course, like every serious athlete, the goal is to be the best you can be. And to become the best in your sport, you have to go professional,” Axel, 18, told Young Post. “Wherever and whenever the opportunity comes to become a professional athlete, I will take it.”

Axel, who is currently studying at the University of California Irvine (which competes at the top Division of the NCAA), comes from a French family and was born in London. But he grew up in Hong Kong, and it is here that he developed a passion for the beautiful game at a very young age.

After learning the basics, and playing at the Hong Kong Football Academy for eight years, Axel joined the youth ranks of the Biu Chun Rangers, a Hong Kong Premier League Team. As a member of the U16 squad, he had the opportunity to train regularly with the first team.

A French International School (FIS) student at the time, Axel soon found himself playing with the Rangers’ U18 and reserve squad. He then moved to Biu Chun Glory Sky, now known as Dreams FC, for his last year in Hong Kong, where he also had the chance to hone his skills against the highly-skilled first squad.

Fortunately, FIS was very supportive of his athletic ambitions. “My school and the club came to an agreement where I could miss some school time to train with the first team twice a week,” he explained, adding that he had been asked to play despite being sidelined for months with a fractured ankle.

Since going to the US, however, Axel has gotten bigger, stronger and, most importantly, wiser. “Since joining UC Irvine, a lot has changed and I’ve improved my game in many areas. Things don’t always go your way, whether in soccer, at school, or any other area in life. You have to embrace every moment and use these moments to work on your craft – every day is a chance to get better.”

It’s not surprising that Axel’s game has soared to new heights, as he now plays against the best young football talents that the US has to offer. However, he’s had to adjust to more forceful body contact from his new rivals.

“There is a big difference between US and Hong Kong soccer in terms of physicality,” said the six-foot-tall midfielder. “There are many top athletes, and I have had to get stronger in order to deal with this physicality.”

His love for the game is also higher than it’s ever been.

“I love football, especially the camaraderie. My team at UC Irvine is like one big family – we overcome obstacles and celebrate victories together,” said Axel, adding that he also relishes the competitive aspect of the game.

Although it’s still several years away, Axel is already looking ahead to his potential pro career, which could be back here. “I will definitely consider coming back to Hong Kong, whether it was for the Hong Kong national team, or a premier league club,” he said.

Axel reminded young footballers in Hong Kong to work hard and stay humble.

“It’s clichéd, but it’s the truth. Work hard every day and never give up – there is always room for improvement. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone better than you and you have to surpass him.”

Edited by Jamie Lam