Mervyn “Ming Fai” McKinley has taken the first big step in achieving his dream of becoming a football coach. McKinley will spend the next year with the Norwich City Football Club Academy in England. He will join the Championship side’s talent identification and recruitment department, keeping an eye out for young, up-and-coming stars.
“Whether it is coaching, or any other area, it would be a dream come true to work in football,” he says.
McKinley, 19, was determined to pursue a career in football ever since he learned how to play the game at the age of six. “I don’t really remember when I started loving football, but it has just been something that I grew to love as I continued playing,” says the former Sha Tin College student. Whether it was for a club, school, or even training with the national team, he always had something to do with Hong Kong’s football scene.
He was nicknamed “Captain Fai” by his friends because of his potent leadership qualities and skill that brought success to his school, as well as multiple clubs, including Yokohama FC, which won the Youth FA Cup.
“That was one of my greatest moments in football,” he says. “I scored a goal in the final, which was unbelievable. Overall, it is the most hard-earned trophy I’ve ever won.”
McKinley first started training at Kowloon Cricket Club aged seven. He later joined leading Hong Kong clubs like Kitchee, Sun Hei, Tai Po FC, and Yokohama FC.
“What I feel like I got out of playing football in Hong Kong is learning how different teams can play completely different styles,” says the former striker. “I’ve learned how to play under many different coaches and systems with different philosophies, and I’ve learned how to adapt to any environment.”
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Despite his potential for success, McKinley gave up his playing career for further studies in Britain. “The opportunities in Hong Kong are very thin compared to the UK,” he says, explaining it was the safer and smarter long-term option. “I realised that my childhood dream of becoming a professional football player wasn’t going to happen, so I’m pursuing a career in coaching instead.”
He is in his third year at Loughborough University, where he studies sports management. “I knew I wanted to study a course that had to do with sports,” he says.
McKinley says he is looking forward to his stint at Norwich City FC and hoping to “gain as much experience as possible”.
He is optimistic about the future of Hong Kong football. “The development of the sport in Hong Kong has been rapid,” he says. Despite the limited opportunities, McKinley says there is a chance he may work in Hong Kong in the future, as the standard of local football continues to rise.
While he always knew he had the talent, McKinley says it was his persistence and passion for the game that helped him land the job at Norwich. “My inspiration begins with my family,” he says, noting that they always came to his matches and supported him.
He also praised his coaches. “Whether it was to score a goal, to keep running, or to work hard, my coaches always motivated me to be the best I could be,” McKinley says. He thanked the local clubs as well as his schoolmates for helping him become a better player, leader and person.