Passion and pride to take the Hong Kong women’s national football team to the highest levels as well as to develop the game further at grassroots level in the city is what motivates Betty Wong everyday. After a distinguished playing career as one of Hong Kong’s top female footballers and athletes, her goal is to make sure that football loving girls of all ages as well as adults are given the chance to pursue their sporting ambitions as well as further popularizing the women’s game further.
In an exclusive interview, Betty took the time out to discuss her love for football and how she plans to develop the women’s and girl’s game in the city that never sleeps.
What are the short terms goals of the Hong Kong Women’s national team?
There are quite a few short term goals for the Hong Kong women’s national team and these include to be more competitive in AFC tournaments and international games by improving their technical, tactical and physical abilities. We also want to identify more potential players and recruit them in the squad as there is a host of hidden and untapped talent in Hong Kong. For financial purposes, we also want to look for potential sponsors to support all the women’s teams. In the longer term, we want to have a higher FIFA ranking and to qualify for the AFC U16 & U19 Women’s Championship respectively. The team also wants to proceed to an Olympic football tournament Round 2. Closer to home, we want to qualify for the EAFF women’s championship Final and Asian Cup Finals and to narrow the gap with the top 5 Asian teams.
You have been involved in HK’s women’s football for years both as a player and a manager. What are the most fundamental changes you have seen?
Over the years, I have seen greater girls participation, including at schools, clubs and national level. There have been more girls’ competitions especially for the youth and a greater systematic organization of the league structure. The Hong Kong Women’s team are also gaining greater international exposure with all the friendlies and competitions they partake in abroad. There has also been more training camps and tournaments in HK for girls so there has been a greater exposure for girls’ football activities.
How do you select players for the Hong Kong team? What key qualities do you look for?
For the senior team, I look to identify potential players in the Hong Kong female league games and university matches. I also look to promote players from the Under 19 squad. For the Under 16 and Under 19 squads, we are looking to identify potential players in the regional development program, youth league and secondary inter-school competitions; we will also promote from Under 14 and under 16 squads and of course, we listen to recommendation from the clubs. For our youngest team(s) which is the under 14 team, we have open recruitments in the summer where talented and hardworking players can get a chance to shine. From this, we have also identified potential players from our regional development program and primary inter-school competitions. We also look to promote from our under 12 squad and of course, we also listen to recommendations from clubs and teachers.
With the launch of the Hong Kong Premier League, how will this affect the women’s game in Hong Kong?
So far, the premier league has had no influence on women’s game but in the long term, we do hope the clubs participating in Premier league will set up their own women’s teams.
Do you think there is a growing interest in women’s football in HK? How can the women’s game become more professional?
Yes, there is a growing interest as there is greater exposure and publicity of the women’s game. In terms of professionalism, I can think of several ways that the game can improve. These includes women’s football getting their own sponsors. All clubs in the women’s leagues should have their own formal structure, such as team manager, coaching teams, technical staffs, etc. The actual league games fixtures should be at more accessible pitches to attract more spectators and supporters. There should also be a full and more organized structure with the national team, such as full-time head coach, coaching staffs including fitness coach & GK coach; furthermore; the national teams should have more training sessions and the players should have greater support with better facilities, such as gym(s) and training venues.
Generally, many parents in HK like their daughters to focus on their studies, do you think this takes talent away from women’s football?
Yes, this is the case I have encountered. We have lost some good potential players in their ‘golden’ learning age who study in famous secondary schools; some of these students may also belong to other team sports and due to heavy school workloads, they could not afford to spend more time playing football. We have also lost players when they move up to high school as they need to prepare DSE exams.
What background do you players come from? Do they all play part-time?
All the players in the league are part-time players who all have alternative jobs. Some are students, clerks, coaches, police, sales and teachers, etc.
How do the male managers and players in HK react to women’s football?
Most of them are supportive and positive to women’s football which is a positive thing.
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau and the HKFA
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer. Follow him on Twitter.
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