Part 1: Football Story
Hi, I'm Lucy from Passion FC and welcome to the career series. Today I have with me Ng Cheuk Wai, who is a team member and goalkeeper of Hong Kong Women Soccer team and also Taichung's Blue Whales FC of Taiwan Mulan Football League. Thanks for joining us in our career series! And to give a little bit more context, this career series will cover various players who are either playing professionally or are able to find time outside of their career to pursue football or those who have followed their passion in football to join the industry itself. We hope to show women footballers that having passion in football can provide you with opportunities in your career as well. And today's interview will be done in Mandarin, but English subtitles will be available. Let’s get started, Cheuk Wai, would you like to introduce yourself, like where you are right now, and what are you doing right now and who you are playing for, just tell us about your background.
Cheuk Wai 1:04
Hello, my name is Ng Cheuk Wai, and I'm from Hong Kong. Now I am In Taiwan, playing for Taichung Blue Whales, a women's football team competing in the Mulan League. Last year, a little after September, I joined this team. I'm a goalie on the football field, goalkeeper. Since I'm also from Hong Kong, so I’m also on the national team.
I was just wondering how you got into football when you were a kid?
Cheuk Wai 1:45
Well, I actually started playing when I was about 16. I used to be a handball player back in middle school.
I also played handball when I was young!
Cheuk Wai 2:04
My friend my friend! And then, in middle school the coach at that time asked me if I want to play football because they just started one at my school women's soccer team. I went to try it out. Because I was a handball player and a goalie too, so I probably react a little bit faster. Or maybe I'm not scared of balls as much. So, I joined them start playing football. At that time, initially, I was just trying to have some fun, but then I fell in love with football as I played more.
So why do you love football so much, what do you love about football the most?
Cheuk Wai 3:01
What I love most about soccer, I like that the whole team, my teammates and I in the games have the same goal, which is we have to win this game, or we have to make sure that we have to win this season. That's the kind of thing that I really enjoy: a group of people, same goal, work together, fighting together.
Well, in your whole football career, for you as an individual or your team as a whole. Have you ever come across difficulties or something, and how did you overcome these difficulties?
Cheuk Wai 3:48
Well, the difficult time I have been through was when I just joined the Hong Kong's women adult team because there were still some players who were older than me, so they are already very experienced. I was about 19 when I joined the adult's team, and I felt pretty nervous at the time. It's just when I was practicing with everyone, and if I didn't perform at my best or my skills are not up to par, I felt a bit nervous. Gradually, probably, after playing with them for 2-3 years. I got my chance to player as a starter at that time in Hong Kong. There was an international tournament, and that's when South Korea scored 14 goals against me, therefore that left a deep impression. I think that that game because so many goals scored against me, inspired me to work harder and motivated me to get better. From that point on, I decided to take my goals seriously and diligently work towards them. I think this was the biggest difficulty I faced. That's because it was my first international game and I let in so many goals. At that time, I cried after the game because I was really sad. But I didn't give up continue my journey of football.
On the contrary, it made you work harder.
Cheuk Wai 5:50
Stay tuned for our second segment: Career in Football
Part 2: Life as a Professional Footballer
Let's get into our second part of the interview. How you started your football career? And how does your daily life look like? So, can you tell us about the Mulan League? What it's like, like, what's the frequency for matches, how many teams are currently in the league, something like that.
Cheuk Wai 0:21
Well, we have six teams here in the Mulan League and we start our season in April. We have a game every week. If I'm not mistaken, we have a game every Saturday. There will be live broadcasts on YouTube
Can you tell us specifically that what is your professional football life like? Like what do you do every day, what is the training regime like. Can you tell us about it?
Cheuk Wai 1:05
Currently for me, because the Mulan League is about to kick off , I go to "the sports factory" at noon every day. "The sports factory" is a place that provides physical therapy and weight training for professional athletes. I work with them and they provide me with this place for training to do conditioning to make my body stronger, such as the leg muscles. (so that I can) Adjusting the body to an optimum state and get ready for the games. We will go to the field after training because the team have practice session every day in the afternoon or so. That is basically it. And then we need to keep a healthy diet. Like we are not allowed to drink the famous Taiwan Bubble Milk Tea.
Not at all or you can still drink it occasionally? Like once a week or once a month?
Cheuk Wai 2:30
Well, if you go out with your friends, you can have it once a month but you have to share it with others
That's very strict. I have a question, so you mentioned that you guys normally practice in the afternoon. Is it because some of you need to work or study during the day?
Cheuk Wai 2:52
Yes, that is true
And then the next question is because you're playing for the Hong Kong national team, in your own experience, what is the difference in attitude towards women in football in Hong Kong and Taiwan? For example, I've heard that the matches in the Mulan League are aired online and it has English subtitles along with a higher viewership. Also, the difference of facilities and field conditions. Can you tell us about the difference that you have felt?
Cheuk Wai 3:24
I've been here for a couple months; I think one thing is that the younger girls in Hong Kong are shyer. Sometimes they are afraid to express themselves, while in Taiwan the girls just listen to their coach. They are pretty disciplined; they will listen to whatever the coach says; they will do exactly what the coach tells them to do. Yes, and sometimes they are not afraid to ask their coach if they do not understand something. When it comes to the fields, I think the ones in Taiwan are a little bit better, because I know that in the Mulan League, every team has their own home field. It's a stable practice field. I think both have football fields for 11 versus 11 like Taoyuan football stadium is an example of a standard 11-person football field. For the live broadcasting part, because the league in Hong Kong hasn't developed to a stage that there is live broadcasting of games. For Taiwan, the games are already being broadcasted. I asked one of my team's seniors "why are we live?" Taiwan's league has live broadcasting and it is supported by the Taiwanese government. The Taiwanese government corporates with the Taiwan football association and they were able to have live coverage of the Mulan League on YouTube for everyone., Enabling people to be aware of the existence of Taiwan's football league for women. I also asked "Wow why is there even English broadcast for our games?" And they said that maybe it is because of the global pandemic from last year, only Taiwan seems to be able to keep holding football games during that time. So that everyone from around the world can watch it. So, they had this English broadcast for our league.
That's true because I remember Taiwan recovered from the pandemic rapidly. I think the number for confirmed COVID-19 cases went down to zero early last year. And there's probably more people in Taiwan watching women's football overall, while the government attaches greater importance to women's football in general. Okay. So, next question: Because you play for the Hong Kong national team, if there's an international match or other higher-level tournaments, are you going to be asked to go back to Hong Kong or return to Hong Kong and play for Hong Kong? Can you briefly talk about how you deal with situations like this?
Cheuk Wai 6:31
Now, I haven't been in this situation. But I did discuss this with the coach from the Hong Kong national team and the coach of Taichung Blue Whale before. If Hong Kong has an international game in the future and they are calling me back to Hong Kong, the coach on the club side will discuss with me whether the international game is at the same time as the Mulan League or other games in Taiwan, (if not) he will allow me go back and play for Hong Kong.
Got it. So, the next question is: How did you start your professional career in the first place
representing Hong Kong, then how did you end up going to the Mulan League in Taiwan? How did you get this opportunity?
Cheuk Wai 7:28
It was last year, no it was the year before last year, like back in 2019. When I was already practicing with Happy Valley Athletic Association’s men's football team in Hong Kong, I was already a semi-professional player. Because Happy Valley helped create videos of me playing football, people knew that there is this girl who's training with professional guys, which sounds special. At that point, because I had a friend who was trying to buy Taichung Blue Whale jerseys. This jersey. They were talking about how Taichung Blue Whale was in need of a goalie, and then my friend recommended me. I talked to the coach at Blue whale, I sent him my CV and my football videos, and I asked him to consider me for the position. I finally get through the interview and joined the team.
That was through friends, so it is kind of special. How do you think playing football affects your life, how did it change your attitude towards life overall?
Cheuk Wai 9:24
I didn't like sports when I was a kid. I preferred playing video games, eating snacks at home. I was a bit chubby when I was little. It wasn't until I started playing football and handball that I became more open-minded and extroverted (I started to become) less shy and spent less time hiding at home. After I start playing football, I felt like I became more well-behaved because I began to have motivation in whatever I did.
And then the last question of this section is what is your future goal in football? Are you going to continue playing professional football? Or do you want to be move onto something like coaching? What is the goal that you have for yourself?
Cheuk Wai 10:30
My goal is that, well, I hope I can keep playing professional football. I may move to different places for new challenges. It’s also a good idea to stay in Taiwan Because I'm a huge fan of Taiwan as well. If there's any invitation from other countries, I would be brave enough to accept the challenge. If I've actually reached an age when I can no longer play as a professional anymore, I think I'll be a goalkeeper coach. Because I want to help others in this industry, sharing my experiences and knowledge with younger players in Hong Kong or in other places. I'm happy to contribute and share all my insights with everyone.
Well, we wish you all the best in your football career
Cheuk Wai 11:41
Hope everything goes well for you.
Stay tuned for our last segment: Advice for becoming a professional footballer (pro soccer player)
Part 3: Advice for Aspiring Professional Footballers
Okay! For the last part of this interview, we're gonna talk about the difficulties you have faced. Is there any advice for people/girls who want to start their football career? So, have you had any difficulties in your career? And if so how did you overcome them?
Cheuk Wai 0:19
The life of a professional football player, I think it's just that I'm away from home by myself for football. You're just gonna have to get used to being on your own, and then it is possible that the places you are going to play football in compared to your hometown might have different cultures or languages. So, you're gonna have to get used to it and try to fit in.
The next question: I've always heard that professional athletes face a lot of mental pressure. Like you said earlier, the first time you lost 14 goals, it was of course a very difficult time. So how do you deal with this kind of pressure, how have you learned to adjust yourself?
Cheuk Wai 1:14
So, I think back at that time, and I played in my first international competition when I was 16, the AFC (Asia Football Confederation) kind. At that time because the original starting goalie got injured, so in that tournament I was the starter for three of the games. I was actually very nervous at the time. I remember because this was my first international competition, because I was younger, I got scared and nervous. However, I performed well, when we were playing against the Australian team, I saved many goals. I really want to give a lot of thanks to the goalie coach. Because before the games, one night, he asked us goalies to come together and meet with him and said: "You guys need to believe in yourself. Don't be too nervous. Just be yourself and you can do this."
So now let's say you're in the same situation, you would do the same, like adjusting yourself, keep telling yourself not to be nervous but be confident. You'll do better this way because I know that sometimes if you're nervous. You will actually play worse.
Cheuk Wai 2:38
Now I probably do similar things to prepare before the games. I watch many clips of the opposing team or research to know more about the characteristics of the players on the other side. By doing this, it will help me on the field. Because as a goalie, if I watch more clips, I will probably know when the players usually shoot, which direction she might run off to, so that I will pay more attention.
Oh, I see, and then you'll probably feel more confident on the field too, a little bit more sure.
So, our last question: Do you have any advice for other girls who want to become professional players? Well, if they want to follow in your footsteps, do you have any advice for them?
Cheuk Wai 3:33
My advice would be practice and get as prepared as possible right now. In terms of football skills, when in your own country, try to get better and have a stable performance. Then you can, my advice would be probably start looking at other countries' teams and also pay more attention to other teams and try to figure out a way to prepare and get your football CV out to see if any of the teams will give you a chance and appreciate your skills. Just get prepared, then when the time comes, you can take off at any time. You will have a greater chance to seize the opportunity
Thank you for being part of our interview! You really provide us an insider view from a professional football perspective and we really appreciate your insights! Thank you everyone for turning in to our career series brought to you by Soccer Girl Goals and Passion FC. As mentioned at the start of the interview we hope that this career series can show people that playing football and having a passion for football can provide opportunities and for you both within and also beyond football.