As a professional footballer who also had to deal with the pressure of the IB Diploma, 18-year-old Sebastian “Seb” Buddle has had a lot on his plate.
“It has been very difficult,” the West Island School student said about balancing school with work. “But thankfully I just finished my last exam.”
It took Seb longer than usual to complete the IB after signing a professional contract with football club Kitchee after his first year of studying for it. “I had to go to training every day from 10.30am to 1pm, so I could only go to school for the first and last lessons. I had to wake up at 6.30am, be at school from 8.30am to 9.30am, go to training then be back at school from 2pm to 3.15pm, and go home and study.”
Seb said it was hard to stay motivated at times, but said he owed his girlfriend Paige a lot for helping him stay on top of things. “She made sure I’d always go to school,” he said, adding that his school had been extremely supportive, too.
Another major challenge was adapting to professional football from the youth game. “It’s a massive step up to go from playing boys to men. You have to try to get to the level that the senior players have been playing at for years.
“Another difficult part is the travelling,” added Seb, who lives on Lantau Island. “I have to travel nearly four hours a day for training and have been doing that since I was 10.”
But still, he said, it was all worth it, as he has played an incredible amount of football for someone his age, including helping Kitchee win the Sapling Cup against Wofoo Tai Po at Hong Kong Stadium on May 19.
“Definitely the proudest moment of my career so far,” Seb said. “From starting the match, to playing 85 minutes, and lifting the trophy with my team in a 2-1 win, it was incredible.
“This was a great feeling as my main target for the season was to win this trophy, and Kitchee had never won this competition before. It was great to celebrate on the pitch afterwards with fans, and my friends and family.
“Making my professional debut at Mong Kok Stadium at 17 was very special to me. The fans were chanting my name. That was a great experience.”
Seb believes the standard of Hong Kong football is improving, and he wants to be a part of that movement.
“Kitchee made history this season in the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] Champions League by becoming the first Hong Kong club to ever win a game,” he said, referring to his club’s 1-0 victory against Japanese football club Kashiwa Reysol in March.
“It shows that Hong Kong teams and players can be good enough to compete with the rest of Asia.”
Seb added that the Hong Kong national team, which he hopes to play for one day, has been much more successful as of late.
“There are a lot of good development programmes in Hong Kong, such as the David Villa (DV7) Academy with Kitchee, which should produce future stars.”
But for now, Seb is focused on his own career. “I have already been playing professional football for [nearly] two years, and I would like to get to the highest level I possibly can, and continue playing and be a part of Hong Kong’s youth football movement.”