The Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) showed that the city is ripe with young football talent that can hang with even the best of Europe.
Their 14-and-under team became the first Hong Kong team to reach the Final 16 of the Gothia Cup; the largest and most international youth soccer tournament in the world which takes place in Gothenburg, Sweden. They did not concede a goal during the entire competition and were only eliminated after losing a penalty shootout, 3-1.
“We were playing against teams with European club players,” explained coach Stephen Tucker. “It really is an incredible accomplishment that we were able to make it as far as we did.”
Despite the disappointing ending, HKFC had some incredible victories during their run, including a 4-O victory against the German USC Paloma Hamburg, and a 7-0 victory against English team, the Prep School Lions.
“The boys have improved leaps and bounds from when I first started coaching them,” Tucker said. “It really shows the kind of character they have.”
Roughly 1700 teams from 80 nations took part in the Gothia Cup this year, with 212 teams in the 14-and-under boys’ category.
“I think Hong Kong’s football scene is improving,” said team captain Noa Fjelddahl, who attends French International School. “I’m happy with the way we played and I think we could have gone even further, but there were a lot of great moments in the tournament.”
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Tucker was particularly impressed with how the team was able to maintain top form despite being hit with sanctions from FIFA that cost them several months’ worth of competitive games. Instead, they stepped up the intensity in practice.
“Credit to the boys really, they stayed positive, kept a good attitude and played great football.”
Tucker’s coaching philosophy has always been for his teams play the game “the right way” rather than focus on winning and losing. He stresses communication on the field, unselfish team play, and solid defense; and the wins will follow.
It also helps having star striker Alric Lam, who plays for South Island School and Arsenal Soccer School. The 14-year-old was scoring goals left and right against elite teams using his tremendous speed, skill, and knack for finding holes in the defence.
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“My favourite moment of the competition was probably scoring four goals against the Lions,” Alric said. “That was pretty crazy.”
Alric will be attending boarding school in the UK next year, where he hopes to continue playing. However, he is unsure whether he will make the team because of the step-up in competition.
His coach believes he’s being too humble. “I don’t think he realises the enormity of what he has accomplished,” Tucker said with a smile. “Scoring four goals against a very good English school team is incredible.”
After the strong showing in the Gothia Cup, Tucker believes that a few players on the HKFC team have the potential to play professionally, even outside of Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong football is growing quickly, make no mistake about it,” he said.