Nowadays, aspiring football players in Hong Kong can rest easy knowing they have more opportunities than ever before.
The upcoming 2018 Sportsync ID Showcase is one such chance for them to shine, and is Hong Kong’s first-ever university football scholarship scouting event. It will bring together 60 of the city’s best young players, who will be able to showcase their skills in front of scouts from a number of prestigious American universities, including Brown University, University of California, San Diego, and Johns Hopkins University, as well as the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, and Lingnan University.
“Parents in Hong Kong sometimes don’t believe sport and academics go together, but this programme is proof that football now gives young people the chance to advance,” said Sam Bensley, grassroots football manager at the Hong Kong Football Association. “It’s great for them, and great for us. We are happy to have players go abroad, come back, and play for the Hong Kong team or stay abroad and make a life for themselves.”
Shay Spitz, a star player for Hong Kong Premier League team Kwoon Chung Southern, spent four years in the US before coming back and becoming a professional player in Hong Kong.
“I know that when I was 17 or 18 and just finishing secondary school, I was nowhere near ready to become a professional player. Playing university football was perfect,” Spitz said about balancing his academic and football development. “I think the US is the best place for it; you go in as a full-time student and a full-time athlete, which forces you to manage your time, gives you the skills you need, and a degree that will help you in life after football.”
Callum Beattie, star footballer for South Island School said he was really excited for the chance to perform in front of scouts from overseas.
“You hear about these scouting events in the US or Britain, but never in Hong Kong. Now that it’s here, I think all of us are going to take full advantage of it,” the 17 year-old said.
Tristian Cheung of Sir Ellis Kadoorie Secondary School (West Kowloon) is planning on going to the US to play football.
“I think it will allow me to pursue my dream of having a career in football,” the 18-year-old said, adding that he is looking at this as an opportunity to prove his parents wrong about his aspirations. “They didn’t really support me when I started taking football seriously. They said ‘you can’t make a living off of football in Hong Kong’, and told me to focus on my studies.”
But Tristian stuck with it, and eventually started playing club football for Sun International, as well as for the Hong Kong U16 team. “My coaches kept telling me that I had the potential to become one of the top professional players in Hong Kong, so I listened to them and trained harder. Now, I’m looking to play and study abroad and make my dreams come true.”
Sam Down, who graduated from King George V School last year and is now playing for the KCC Dragons, is looking to follow in his brother Toby’s footsteps. Toby Down has been playing football in the US, but is looking to return to Hong Kong soon to pursue a professional career. “He has it great over there,” Sam, 18, said of his brother. “Great coaches, facilities, teammates – his whole life over there is pretty good. Much better than Hong Kong,” he joked.
Magnus Leung, co-founder and managing director of Affinity Sports & Education (one of the co-organises of the event), has one message for parents and young athletes across Hong Kong:
“A good education and a sporting career aren’t independent things. We hope that, through this showcase which we want to make a yearly event, more local athletes will be able to reap the benefits of being able to play sports and learn at the same time.”
The 2018 Sportsync ID Showcase, co-organised by Affinity Sports & Education and Sportsync, will be held next Tuesday at the Hong Kong Football Club.