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Nine questions for Macao’s top centre forward Leong Ka Hang

Leong Ka Hang is one of the few local footballers to make it in the Hong Kong league. He talks to Macao News about how the game differs on the other side of the estuary.

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Leong Ka Hang is one of the few local footballers to make it in the Hong Kong league. He talks to Macao News about how the game differs on the other side of the estuary.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 8:14 am

Chao Pak Kei centre forward Leong Ka Hang, 30, has had the accolades and opportunities that most local players dream of.

He began playing in the Liga de Elite, Macao’s top division, at the age of just 15. Between 2008 to 2014, he turned out for Lai Chi, MFA Development and CD Monte Carlo, earning the sobriquet “Mr Football” despite his tender years. In 2011 and 2013, he was named the league’s best player. 

In 2015, Leong graduated to the regional bigtime and signed his first professional contract with Hong Kong’s Tai Po Football Club. Few Macao players have cut it on the other side of the estuary and Leong should have been living the dream. But a persistent ankle injury – endured since his late teens – began to cause him problems and in 2021 he returned to Macao.

He took time out from his busy schedule as the co-founder of soccer clinic Triphasic Football to speak to Macao News.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What was it like signing your first professional contract with Tai Po in 2014? 

Everyone knows Macao’s football standards are lower compared to Hong Kong. When I went there to play, everyone looked down on me. I wanted to play better because I represented all Macao footballers. If I played badly, then [Hong Kong fans] would say Macao was terrible. Every game, I kept this mindset. I didn’t care if I didn’t score but if I didn’t play well I would make Macao’s image look bad. 

What were some of your most memorable experiences in Hong Kong? 

The first was when I scored a last-minute goal against South China. They are a big team that everyone wants to beat, just like Kitchee. I assisted [a football term referring to a player who passes the ball to a goal scorer], scored, and won the Most Valuable Player award in that game.

The second was during a Hong Kong Sapling Cup game with Lee Man against Kitchee. We had to win to qualify. Before that game, I injured my ankle, again. I did PRP [platelet-rich plasma] treatment. It was an expensive treatment and I just went for one session of the four. I rested for a week and did not train. I couldn’t believe that I was in the starting 11 and ended up scoring two goals.

The third memorable moment was in my second season with Lee Man when Covid hit. It was a long and difficult season. In my last game, I scored a hat trick for the first time. I only played for 30 minutes.

[See more: What’s next for football in Macao?]

What made you return to Macao? 

I lost my passion for football. I had two good seasons for Lee Man. Then I injured my ankle again which ended my season in 2021. Besides football, my other dream is to heal my ankle. 

The truth is, I couldn’t heal my ankle in Hong Kong or even now. It’s getting better, but still a long way from healing. I just hope, if there’s not too much pain, that I can still enjoy football.

Now I play for Chao Pak Kei Football Team and sometimes I do not enjoy it because of the pain. When we’re leading by four or five goals, why am I [still on the pitch]? In Hong Kong, the score is tight, I still have the motivation to play. But after coming back here, the score is big every game. 

Chao Pak Kei_Leong Ka Hang
A well deserved goal from Leong Ka Hang against Ching Fung – Photo courtesy of Leong Ka Hang

How would Macao’s football compare to Hong Kong’s? 

I used to wear a GPS tracker during games. When I played for Lee Man against a weak team, we didn’t need to run so much because we could control the ball better. When you do that, you don’t need to run – the opposition runs. As a striker in Hong Kong, I ran for about 7 or 8 kilometres each game. But in Macao, it’s 11 kilometres. The physical effort is too much here.

In Hong Kong, every player is smart at understanding the game and has better ball touch than us. Far better than us. 

What’s your goal from here on out? 

I have opportunities to play in mainland China, but I’m afraid to accept the challenge because of my physical and mental state. I’m scared to even play now. I don’t know if my ankle is healed or not and maybe it might not ever heal. 

For now, I just want to help young players and make them better footballers, especially by keeping them in good condition to avoid injuries. Without injuries, you have more time to improve but once you’re injured, especially big injuries, you might have to give up football, especially here in Macao. Me and Joe Choi started Triphasic Football to help with all that. The goal is to help improve sports performance, reduce injuries and [teach] better nutrition.

[See more: The Macao men’s football team goes down 0-2 to Myanmar]

If you weren’t a footballer, what would you be? 

A sports reporter. 

Which football club do you support and who was your idol growing up? 

Before it was Liverpool and now it’s Real Madrid. I liked Fernando Torres and I even have the same tattoo as him. I used to watch how he played and his behaviour on the pitch because no one really taught me.

Who’s your best friend in football? 

Ka Him. We’ve been good friends since we were 8 years old. We played in the Macao team, youth team, and many other teams. When I used to play in Hong Kong, he used to come to watch me play often. After I returned to Macao, we are now in the same team. I’m very happy.

Leong and Ka Him
22 years of friendship and football between Leong and Ka Him

What was the last goal you scored? 

The latest one would have been in mainland China. It was a fun competition and everyone was trying to win. It wasn’t an easy tournament, but I would rather play there. When you see the reporters, the sponsorships, and the people around you, you want to play.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 8:14 am

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