Philip Wong loves animals and football, and now he looks set to turn both his passions into careers – something he would not have thought possible was he was little.
“When I was younger, I really liked animals. I [even] thought about becoming a vet, but Hong Kong didn’t have a course [for it],” Wong said. But thanks to his dedication to football, he is about to fulfil a childhood dream.
The 22-year-old was a star player for Diocesan Boys’ School, and represented Hong Kong at Asian school tournaments. After recruitment agency Affinity Sports heard about Wong’s skills on the pitch, they got in touch with university scouts. His efforts on the pitch earned him a football scholarship from Lincoln Memorial University in the US in 2015. He has now been accepted onto his school’s Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine programme.
For all his prowess, though, Wong hasn’t always loved the beautiful game. He only started playing in 2003 when the Sars (a virus that causes pneumonia and lung inflammation) outbreak hit Hong Kong and the mainland.
“My mum wanted me to be fit and healthy, so that I wouldn’t get sick,” he said. “My uncle, who is a huge fan of football, kept telling me about it,” which made him more interested in it.
Over time, Wong fell in love with the sport and eventually became one of Hong Kong’s best young strikers. Although he was the first Hong Kong player to be asked to play professionally in Thailand, Wong chose to pursue his education in the United States instead.
Still, even after he starts his intensive studies in September, Wong said he will continue to play for his university’s team.
“It will be pretty tough,” he admitted to Young Post. “We have games, conditioning, practice, and weight sessions, so I have to spend at least three to four hours a day on the team. For my veterinary course, I will have classes from 8am to 4pm every day.”
For all that he loves animals, Wong hasn’t given up on also having a professional football career. “I love football and I want to play for as long as possible,” he said. “My plan is to help my team win a championship. We came second last year. After that, I want to play professionally in the US while I’m still young, then become a vet afterwards.
Wong doesn’t think Hong Kong students should have to choose between sport and academics, and would say that he is an example of how you can do both.
The toughest bit, he said, is balancing the two – particularly as one is so team- oriented, and the other is not.
“As a football player, you’re used to having teammates and coaches helping you out. With schoolwork, you feel like you’re all on your own,” Wong said, but added that it doesn’t have to be that way. Athletes should not be afraid to ask their teachers and friends for help with their schoolwork.
“No matter what, though, just work hard and chase your dreams.”
If you could be any animal on the pitch, what would it be?
A tiger, because I run fast and I am really aggressive. I’m not the kind of player who hides and passes the ball; I like to dribble into defenders and attack.
What’s your favourite song?
Anything by Eminem. His songs hype me up. They help me focus on the game.
What’s your pre-match routine?
Normally we do a team warm-up, but I like to do my own warm-up to go from practice to actual game mode.
What food do you like to eat before a match?
Sweets. I need sugar in my system so that I’m properly awake. That’s why I have at least half a big bag of sweets before any game.