Brown University and other top American schools are scouting young HK footballers: turning pro is no longer just a dream

By Ben Young

In the first-ever scouting event for Hong Kong, young local players like Callum Beattie are getting a chance to shine

By Ben Young |

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Callum (left) wants to play in the Major League Soccer professional league in the US.

Hong Kong’s young footballers were extremely impressive at the 2018 Sportsync ID Showcase – the city’s first-ever football scouting event for US universities.

“The players were much better than I expected,” said Brown University’s soccer coach Trevor Banks. “There are at least 10 or so players that we’ve been looking at and thought, ‘yup, they could play at our level’.”

The showcase, co-hosted by recruitment company Affinity Sports and Sportsync last Friday, hopes to become an annual event, meaning that football is slowly becoming both a more viable career option, and a means of getting an elite education in the US.

“We take note of which players stand out, then the Sportsync and Affinity guys help us get in contact with them and we go from there,” Banks said. “If it’s a good fit, we’ll possibly have a guy over for a visit, maybe let them attend a training camp and try to work out a deal.”

One player that stood out to a lot of coaches is 18-year-old South Island School student Callum Beattie, one of Hong Kong’s top football prospects who has played for Hong Kong Football Club since he was eight.

“I’ve been playing football since I’ve been able to walk, so maybe one or two years old,” explained Callum, whose father was a semi-professional player in Britain. “I’ve always loved the sport and ever since I met the Affinity sports guys, I’ve realised that my dream of making a career out of football is more than possible.”

Brown University coach Trevor Banks was impressed by the local talent.
Photo: Ben Young/SCMP

Football has always been Callum’s passion. “It’s given me a purpose. School is school, but having football as something to look forward to after school has kept me happy, and I’ve always just found the game to be so much fun.”

Now that local footballers have a much clearer path to a professional career, Callum had some advice on how to actually make it happen: work on your fitness. “A lot of players get too wrapped up on working on the skills aspect of football – passing, shooting, dribbling and all of that,” he said. “While these are important, in my opinion, fitness is just as important as having good skills and can give you a massive advantage.

“Running, pushing yourself, working on your endurance, being faster and stronger than your opponent, that allows you to go past people and really dominate the game.”

Banks agreed with Callum that he saw fitness as Hong Kong players’ biggest weakness. “In the US, players are a lot bigger and play at a much faster pace. I’ve seen plenty of players here with enough talent and skill, but it’s going to be tough for them to adjust to US collegiate level soccer where the players are a lot more physical and a little bit quicker.”

It’s no wonder Callum plans to go to the US not just to play university football, but also to pursue a career in the American professional league – Major League Soccer – afterwards.

“I’m really excited about it – I’m in talks with quite a few schools,” he said. “And I am going to consider not just football, but academics, too. I also think life in America seems really cool, so I’m not just looking forward to playing football there, but [also] starting a new life in a new country. It’s all very exciting.”

Edited by Nicole Moraleda