My relationship with football began on a Saturday in Hong Kong at 8 years old. With no shin pads or boots, my dad immediately threw me into an 8 aside friendly match where only 3 of us were girls and the rest were boys. At the time, I had no clue how to play in positions. All I knew was that I had to tackle and get the ball to score- and that’s exactly what I did every chance I got. From then on, I continued playing for my school and locally at one point until I left to London for uni. A year ago, I decided to reignite my love for playing football by joining a new team here in London, where we currently compete in the Super 5 league. Having gone through all this, I’ve realised how thankful I am to Hong Kong, and how I had such great memories playing football there when I was younger. To be honest, I don’t believe HK gets enough credit when it comes to making football so readily available for kids like me who grew up there.
If I had to sum up Hong Kong’s football scene now, it would still be “growing”, and there’s definitely an immense love for the sport in various ways. For as long as I could remember, young kids and teenagers always had opportunities to play matches and train, whether it was on a proper AstroTurf pitch, or more commonly on basketball courts since they were literally everywhere in the city. Growing up, I knew so many girls who wanted to play football or watch it. I think the only obstacle was parents. Some I heard, would often stereotyped football as a boy’s sport, and would often think only a certain type of girl could play, a Tom boy as they called it. But my dad never saw it that way, and there were many parents like him who pushed their daughters to be active in full-contact sports. In my upbringing, it was never a distant thought for me to participate in football, the opportunities were always there for me and many young girls which was super encouraging.
Many of us would stay up late to watch premier league games despite to the time difference. One clear memory of mine was staying up till 5am with my dad at 10 years old to watch a Liverpool match on a school night. I liked watching matches, and always found myself commenting on every pass and tackle instinctively— it helped my skills get a lot better.
As young boys and girls, the game of football was a fun addition to our academic education. However if you wanted to be a professional player, the prospects of that in Hong Kong were very slim. In 2016, Hong Kong started to get more investment into football when they launched the Hong Kong Premier League. Clubs then began getting more money to pay international and local male players to play full-time, and their training had developed rapidly since then. My local team Tai Po FC even won the league last year in 2019! To this day I am gassed about that.
While investment was an optimistic step in progressing the game, the grassroots and professional football in Hong Kong still have a lot of work to do when it comes to gender equality. When it comes to Hong Kong’s women’s football scene, there are significantly less pro or grassroots teams compared to men, and women don’t earn a full time salary from playing pro. Even going back to basics, a simple thing clubs can do is label women’s teams as “women” not “girls”.
Professional Women’s footballers deserve the same love that male footballers in Hong Kong get- because we need strong figures that young girls can look up to in order to see that football can be a potential career. HK needs to nurture the talent of the many young female footballers and invest more spaces and media attention on women’s football.
Overall, Hong Kong’s football scene seems positive, and still on the rise. Hong Kong has always made football readily available for young kids and my own memories of it growing up will still be one of my best there! However, the game will only grow even more in Hong Kong once women get the same investment and attention as the men do. This comes from the fans, players, coaches, and decision makers- who all have a role in this! I personally have no doubt that women’s football in Hong Kong will rise to its full potential and I can’t wait to see it. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go back and help grow the professional status of football for women in Hong Kong! That would be amazing.