Playing on home turf will be an advantage for Hong Kong Eastern, said its coach Chan Yuen-ting on Tuesday as they prepare to take on Japanese team, Kawasaki Frontale, in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
Speaking after losing 7-0 to Guangzhou Evergrande last week, Chan told reporters that they’ve recovered from the big loss and are ready for their second match in the AFC’s premier club competition.
“We have an advantage, because number one, we are familiar with the pitch. So we’re more confident when playing here. But of course we are playing Asian Football Confederation (AFC) standards so let’s see,” she told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.
At just the age of 28, Chan Yuen-ting is the world’s first female coach to win a top-flight title in the men’s professional league, and now she’s leading the Hong Kong based team into new territory.
Nicknamed “Beef Ball” for her similar personality to a cow and her Chinese name, Chan said her love for soccer and a childhood crush on David Beckham made her decide to put the sport first and foremost in her life.
Women are far and few in the world of soccer and so Chan shot to international fame after she took Eastern to the Hong Kong Premier league title in last year and days later was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the first female soccer coach to win a men’s championship.
She said that Hong Kong provides equal opportunities in life for both men and women.
“Growing up, and even now I believe there’s hardly any discrimination against women. It’s because of this, Hong Kong Football Association has given me a platform to develop my career. If I was in another Asian country, where women are not of the same social status as men, I would never be able to do what I can,” Chan told Reuters.
Chan’s coaching career goes back seven years, starting with fellow Hong Kong side Pegasus, as a video analyst, and moved to Eastern five years later.
She said she feels the pressure while working in a male-dominated environment.
“It’s nerve-racking. There’s definitely more nerves than excitement, because there’s never been a female coach leading an all male team. I’m also coaching Eastern, which is a very local team. So when we’re competing, there’s that added pressure,” Chan said.
“There might be many women who work in a male-dominated environment and are waiting for opportunities to rise or to breakthrough. They might think, ‘oh there are so few opportunities or it’s super difficult’. But I keep telling them believe in it and it’ll become reality. Even though you might be ready sometimes the opportunities aren’t there, but at least when the time comes you’ll be ready.”
While she has no solid plans to leave Hong Kong in the near future, Chan has expressed interest in taking her career overseas in the long-term and to then bring her knowledge back to Hong Kong would be ideal. But for now, she is focusing on improving herself as a coach and getting her pro-licence.
Eastern will play Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday evening in Hong Kong at the Mong Kok stadium.
Kawasaki Frontale drew their first game of their AFC Champions League campaign against South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings.