Mum's the word as a coach

Mum's the word as a coach

Anson Chan says his mother, a former player, has helped put him on course to one day being a professional footballer


Anson Chan learned from the best - his mum.
Anson Chan learned from the best - his mum.
Photo: Kevin Kung
There's a common belief among boys that their mums don't know much about football. It's true: many can't name a footballer other than David Beckham.

However, Anson Chan Pak-hei's mum, Zhang Qiuling, is an exception. Zhang was a midfielder for Guangdong's provincial women's football team. She is a qualified Asian Football Confederation coach and now works full time as youth-team coach for the first-division team Tuen Mun.

"Many mums dislike their sons spending too long out on the football pitch, but my mum is out there training even more than me," says Anson, 15. "I have only one practice session each time, but she may take the training for other age groups on the same day, too."

The Form Four pupil at Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School, in Tuen Mun, started playing as a winger, aged nine, for the district's under-11 team. His mother later coached him during his time playing in the under-13 and under-15 teams.

"I wasn't an enthusiastic player," Anson says. "At first, I wanted to skip training when I felt tired. But every time Mum needed to attend the training, so she accompanied me going to and from the pitch. So the idea of quitting somehow vanished."

Thanks to his mother's training, Anson started to enjoy the sport. He came to respect her coaching style.

"She is tough, but never criticises us harshly in front of the whole team," Anson says. "She prefers to give one-on-one counselling; her actions help build up the team's spirit and harmony."

Anson used to discuss team issues with his mother at home. "I used to have a bad temper and would sometimes blame my teammates for no reason," he says. "Mum saw my behaviour and, back at home, asked me to control my emotions. She emphasised that I shouldn't hurt the team's interests."

Having a mother as a football coach has actually taught Anson to be independent. Zhang coaches four school teams in addition to her club commitments. "It means I nearly always have dinner with my dad, or even alone," he says. "I've learned how to cook for myself."

While his mother loves football, Anson still has the typical mother-son disputes that his teammates have. "Mum knows how much time I spend on football, so if she sees me doing nothing at home, she gets angry and urges me to study. After all, she's still a regular mum."

Anson says his mother has been the driving force behind the high goals that he has set for himself - both in football and his academic studies. Already he has achieved some of these goals.

In August Anson joined Hong Kong's under-18 squad, and was picked for the Jockey Club Elite Youth Football Camp. He went to English Premier League club Manchester United's training camp in Britain. Anson was one of only two Hong Kong representatives and found the experience invaluable.

He was also promoted last summer to be a reserve player for Tuen Mun's first-division team. But that means he is no longer under his mother's supervision.

"Thanks to my mum, I'm now an able footballer," Anson says. "I want to be a full-time professional after completing my undergraduate degree in the future.

"Even though I'm not getting trained by her any more, I won't forget what she's taught me.

"She's helped me so much to reach a certain level in the sport. It's great to have a mum who's a football coach."



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