Since HKU23 played in the HKPL for two seasons, they have only scored two draws in the league. The average number of people in the home games is less than 300. Some fans criticized the standard for being too poor and not reaching the professional level, which lowered the game’s visibility.
However, in the eyes of young players, U23 provides far more opportunities to play than big clubs, and the team is dominated by the Football Association, which is more stable than individual “professional” teams in terms of food and income. For Yuen Sai Kit, who played for U23 in the last two seasons and just finished his contract, this team has also made him grow a lot.
During the youth army era, he was trained in Yuen Long and Chelsea Football School (Hong Kong). In the latter, he played in the youth competition under the name of SCAA and Happy Vally. During the Yuen Long U team, Yuen performed well in a game against Kitchee and was selected At that time, Hong Kong youth coach Kim Pan-Gon Joshua joined the U13 Hong Kong team. In the past, because of his fast running, he was arranged to play in the middle of the defense. After joining the Hong Kong Youth League, Kim discovered his twisting potential and transformed him into a winger, slowly finding his position on the court.
At the age of 16, Yuen, who was hesitating about his future, also received an invitation from the HKPL club when he was thinking about whether to go to higher education: “At that time, I asked Ben Lam, director of Chelsea, for his opinion, and learned that Happy Vally had a three-year The plan is to use a group of young players as the backbone to advance from Group C to Group A.” Yuen believed that the football environment in Hong Kong was unstable, so he finally chose to study alongside football. While studying at the City University of Hong Kong, he also followed Happy Vally from the lower group Kicked up, and was also loaned out to the sister team Tung Shing at the time to gain experience and play opportunities.
Happy Vally’s three-year plan is going very smoothly. After being promoted to the Super League in 2019, it will introduce high-quality foreign aid, and at the same time continue to use young players as the backbone. Many strong teams such as Kitchee and Lee Man have proved that under the leadership of high-quality foreign aid, young players can play at a high level.” During his time at Yuyuan, Yuen was also selected for the Lunar New Year Cup Hong Kong team list. COVID canceled.
But good times don’t last forever. First, the COVID-19 epidemic made players unable to play for a long time and affected their status. Happy Vally began to default on salary in 2021, and even applied for relegation from the first team after the season. A group of players have to feel sad about being off duty, but also have to recover their due salary, which has not yet been fully recovered.
Due to the withdrawal of two HKPL teams, HKFA organized and established “HKU23” to participate in HKPL competitions in order to maintain HKPL with 10 teams and provide opportunities for young players to retire. The first coach Cheung Kin Fung asked Yuen to join, and he agreed immediately.
Yuen believes that U23 is an all-Chinese team, and there are few cultural differences between players, so it is easier to establish a tacit understanding: “There are many students in U23. If you are in another team, this status may limit your development. For example, you cannot play for academic reasons. There are too many missing exercises; but U23 will adjust the practice time before and after the exam, so that everyone can take care of their studies at the same time. I am very grateful to the team for their coordination and active help.”
U23 often loses in the Super League, but for young players, there is a stable space and opportunity to try different ways of playing: “I worked hard to play every game well in U23, but in the end I lost for different reasons. , of course they will be unhappy. However, the coaches will be very patient. It seems that even after the big defeat (the second coach) Szeto Man Chun will still carefully edit the game videos of individual players, point out points and improve them, and feel that the coach I am very considerate of young players. If I play for a big club, in order to strive for results, the team will tend to send foreign aid and a small number of Chinese players as the main force, and it will be difficult to give young players a chance to play.”
In the Sapling Cup, where the opponent also needs to send young players to compete, U23 is more capable of competing with other clubs. During the two seasons, they recorded two victories, and they were able to evenly compete with their opponents in other competitions. many.
When HKFA established HKU23, it promised to maintain the team’s operation for at least three seasons; Yuen, who will be 24 years old in December after playing for two seasons, has also expired with the team and left the team. He is grateful that the team gave the student athletes the opportunity to realize their professional dreams, and also took good care of the players’ spiritual development and technical improvement, but in the long run, the players still need their own efforts.
Outside of the HKFA, in recent years some local football clubs have cooperated with foreign countries to send high-quality young players to France, Japan and other places to study law; some players with better family conditions will be arranged by their parents to join football academies overseas: “Zhong There are more and more kids playing football in Italy. If their development is not limited to Hong Kong, and the younger they are, the sooner they go out to play, I believe that Hong Kong players have the ability to gain a foothold in Europe.”
As far as Yuen himself is concerned, when he was young, he didn’t have the resources and opportunities to study Fa in other places. Now, if he wants to continue to develop in the football world, he has to go abroad. He hopes that he can achieve this wish before the age of 28. The first choice is the Chinese League: “Before that You must first strive to be selected for the Hong Kong team. Only international competitions can allow scouts to see you; like Yue Tze Nam and Matthew Orr, they both attracted the attention of mainland teams because of their good performance in the Hong Kong team. They also opened up for Hong Kong players. It has opened up a new direction, and mainland teams are also very willing to use Hong Kong players.”
“Foreign young players will decide their goals very early, and then exhaust their energy to pursue them and strive to become professional football players. They believe that as long as they work hard, they don’t need to worry about their livelihood, so they will be willing to let go. Fighting; but playing football in Hong Kong requires more worries, and it is very difficult for players to make up their minds to play football.”
During his time at HKU23, the coaching team repeatedly instilled in the players the importance of professional ethics and maintaining discipline. Yuen deeply remembered these reminders: “To become a professional player, there are many things to sacrifice, and I always remember to think clearly. Why do I have to sacrifice, I will not let myself make mistakes easily, as a player, I have to think clearly.”
Yuen, who takes Ronaldo as his goal, in order to keep his physical condition stable, will refer to the schedule of foreign professional players, and try his best to set a stable life schedule and balanced eating habits for himself: “Every day, I will do stretching properly. Relax and balance your physical condition, rely on self-discipline to adapt to the rhythm of the profession, and don’t want to miss every opportunity to participate in practice and competitions to strive for the best performance. Usually, I will look at my own game clips to understand my strengths and what needs to be improved , and watch other players in similar positions.”
In addition to practicing wave, physical fitness and recovery every day, the rest of the time will teach children to play football to help the family: “At the same time, the coach’s job is to transform his knowledge to teach others. He has to think a lot, just like a brain exercise. Seeing other children’s pure enthusiasm for football and their willingness to ask questions, they can inspire themselves again.”
|Pro team||Happy Vally（2019-2021）|
(cover photo credit ：provided by interviewee)