Away win in Europe

Away win in Europe

Five young locals get a chance to hone their football skills in England and Spain

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Lai Tze-fung (top), Chan Sze-chun (left), and Lee Ka-yiu
Lai Tze-fung (top), Chan Sze-chun (left), and Lee Ka-yiu
Photo: K.Y. Cheng
Picturing themselves among the famous stars on screen while playing the World Soccer Winning Eleven video game proved to be more than wishful thinking for five young Hong Kong footballers.

Three of them - the winners of RTHK talent show A Kick to Success - earned the chance to train at the grounds of a prestigious club in Britain.

Chan Sze-chun, Lai Tze-fung and Lee Ka-yiu were selected for a three-week training programme at Birmingham City Football Club in Britain. Two other talented Hongkongers - Lali Li Ka-chun and David Ngan Lok-fung - were sent to a football camp in Spain by their local First Division club. But forget a fun, carefree vacation of kicking a ball around. They all had to take part in rigorous training sessions.

"We trained together with some of the best junior players from around the world," Sze-chun says of his time in Birmingham. "Many of them were younger but more talented than us. To gain their respect, we all did our best to prove ourselves."

The highlight of the threesome's trip was the chance to watch two English Premier League matches live.

"Before the match we stepped on the grass alongside the pitch and sat in the reserve seats at St Andrews, the club's home ground," Tze-fung recalls. "I've never played in the First Division football league in Hong Kong," he adds, then quips: "But I've already experienced being a 'reserve player' in the Premier League!"

Despite the adrenaline rush of such moments, the locals felt homesick sometimes.

Ka-yiu certainly did. The youngster, who plays for Sham Shui Po, a top team in the Hong Kong football league's Second Division, admits becoming homesick after two weeks in Birmingham. "I had never been away from my family for so long before," he says. "But I talked with them over the phone and their support 'cured' me."

Lali and David, who both play for Kitchee Sports Club, honed their skills at the grounds of a Spanish Third Division team, CF Amposta. "Our training in Spain focused on tactics and techniques," Lali explains. "We trained with players the same age as us."

The Hong Kong players' biggest challenge proved to be the communication barrier, both on and off the pitch. "We were having our training sessions in small towns," Lali says. "Most local people couldn't speak fluent English, and David and I don't speak Spanish. We began to get on better when we started to communicate in sign language."

Besides training, the pair enjoyed sightseeing trips around town.

"We trained twice a day on weekdays and were free to walk around town on weekends," he says.

"The buildings and streets in the towns we visited were very artistic. You could see sculptures and artworks everywhere."

After their stint with CF Amposta, both players joined the rest of the Kitchee team in Barcelona for a further two weeks of training.

"We played some friendly matches with local teams there," Lali said.

Their coach in Spain, the pair added proudly, said they were two football stars in the making and urged them to continue working hard and honing their technique.

That they will surely do.

Kevin is a Young Post intern

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