HK Profile: Chan Yuen-ting – The first ever female HK Premier League head coach

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Eastern Football Team's head coach Chan Yuen-ting on her journey to the top and the future of the Hong Kong football scene

Let’s begin with a small challenge – name a handful of female football celebrities. The clock is ticking. And time’s up. How many could you name after racking your brains? In a society highly aware of gender equality, football remains a largely testosterone-fueled sport in the professional field. Yet, with Eastern Football Team’s appointment of Chan Yuen-ting as their new head coach in December 2015, the team now boasts Hong Kong’s first female head coach in the Premier League, one of the few women in the world in charge of a men’s sport team.

“I feel very blessed to be able to find a career in my passion,” Chan says humbly. “I didn’t expect to become a head coach before 30! Perhaps it was destiny.” Under the 27-year-old’s leadership, Eastern won the Senior Shield last month and currently sit top of the Hong Kong Premier League. Not only is she a capable coach, her personable character has earned her enormous popularity, as testified by the various nicknames given to her by the players, such as Aunty Ha (霞姨), a reference to the Steven Chow film King of Comedy, and Beef Ball, a nickname that has stuck with Chan since her secondary school days. 


Chan with the 2015-16 HKFA Premier League trophy and Guinness World Record certificate for the first female coach to win a major men's football title. Image courtesy of
Eastern Football Club

Although she seems to be living a charmed life, Chan’s path to becoming head coach was not one strewn with roses. She faced fierce family opposition when she first started, as a career in sport was contrary to her family’s expectation of a stable job with reliable prospects. “I worked as a part-time data analyst at TSW Pegasus FC with little salary for my first job upon graduating from university,” recalls Chan. After attending some of her matches, being touched by her enthusiasm and witnessing her unflagging determination over a number of years, the family’s stance gradually softened and eventually became very supportive of her. “I did contemplate the possibility of switching to a job not in football, just before coming to Eastern as a matter of fact,” Chan replies when asked whether she ever considered giving up. “I felt disheartened and worried every time the football club I worked for in the past disbanded, not only because of my own unemployment, but for the future of football in Hong Kong,” she adds. 

Chan’s efforts and perseverance paid off as she was appointed head coach at Eastern just before last Christmas. That, however, was not the happy-ever-after ending of her story, just another set of hurdles to overcome. “At the end of the day, the perspectives and the way our brains are wired are not the same between men and women, and I may not be able to completely grasp the way the players think,” ruminates Chan. The difference between masculine and feminine mindsets is the sole gender-related issue Chan raises during our interview. Asked if there are any other difficulties to battle, Chan remarks, “There are many things I have not experienced before as I’ve never been a professional footballer, which might hinder effective communication between the players and me.” To counter this, she keeps an open mind and pays careful attention to what the players have to say, as well as the advice given by her assistants, all of who provide her differing points of view and opinions.

Despite having reached a significant milestone in her career, Chan is eager to pass many more. “I will strive for the best in my current position. If chances arise in the future, I’d like to work in other Asian countries with a strong football culture to gain wider exposure.” With herself as an example, Chan wishes to promote the local football scene, ‘which is of a very high standard and definitely deserves more investment’ she declares. A role model for youngsters everywhere, Chan hopes to encourage all those chasing their dreams with her experience. Her advice is simple, “To persist once you’ve found your passion and not to give up easily, even in adverse situations.” Unsurprising advice from someone who lives by the motto ‘winners never quit, quitters never win’. Ambrose Li

Find out more about Eastern Football Team at eastern-sportsclub.com.

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