Mark Kaiser knows what it feels like not to have the odds in his favour. The 18-year-old captain of the Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS) football led his team through a daunting set of fixtures to the finals of the All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Football Tournament earlier this year.
“Many thought we were given the toughest draw. We played really strong teams like Hong Kong International School, Diocesan Boys’ School and YCH Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School – we were probably the underdogs in every one of those games,” explains Mark.
Eventually making it past the gauntlet of tough opponents in the preliminaries, they had to face YCH, last year’s reigning champs, in the final.
“Look around one last time. These are the people you’re going to war with!” bellowed CDNIS coach Justin Wah before the match.
Amazingly, the Canadians took home the cup by holding YCH to a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes, then going on to win it all in a dramatic sudden death penalty shoot-out. “It took a lot of guts to calm our nerves during the shoot-out, but our team as a sum is greater than any individual!” Mark says.
Despite being a part of other high-profile clubs such as the Hong Kong Under-18s and Asian Football Confederation Under-19s, Mark considers lifting the cup with his CDNIS school team his most memorable moment to date. “It takes the top spot because of the great team spirit we showed. We just always believed in the way we played and it paid off,” he says.
Football runs through Mark’s veins. He recalls playing with his dad and brother at the age of three. Over the years, he’s put in the hard work to become the commanding centre-half that he is. But he didn’t do it all alone.
Mark was also quick to thank his coach. “Coach Wah has been a tremendous guiding presence. He’s taught me the most about being a leader and a good teammate, and has made me a better player and person,” he says.
Mark’s humble and inclusive nature is something he has been working on since becoming captain – but it didn’t come easy. “I have high expectations of myself, so I get frustrated when something doesn’t go the way I envision it. I’ve become a lot better at controlling my emotions thanks to my leadership role” he reveals, adding that keeping his emotions in check actually improves his performance. “Get too frustrated, and you won’t have the right mindset to succeed.”
To keep that Zen-like mindset both on and off the pitch, Mark turns to the soothing influence of music. He doubles up as bassist and guitarist in his school’s jazz band, as well as in a rock band formed with friends.
After graduating from secondary school, Mark will continue his studies at the University of Victoria in Canada where he’s set to join the men’s team, the Vikes. The fact that Mark is their only international recruit this year shows just how highly they think of his potential.
Mark has tasted the thrill of victory in Hong Kong, but this is just the start – he’s already set out a blueprint for the future. “The plan is to keep playing football at the highest level for as long as I can. Hopefully I can make a name for myself playing somewhere in North America or Asia in a few years’ time,” he says.
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re playing football?
The Fast and the Furious
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
I’d take a horse. Big body, strong, and quick on their feet. I’d imagine dribbling around defenders would be easier with four legs, too!
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
I love a good rice bowl with some meat. Doesn’t matter what kind, but almost anything with rice tastes good.
Which fictional character would you choose as your team mate?
I’d take the Monstars from Space Jam. I know they lost, but that team was stacked with scary dudes.
10 years in the future, you are a famous footballer. What company are you spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
PlayStation. I just can’t stop playing Fifa on my PS4!