Our Athletes in the South China Morning PostsMarch 02, 2015
You can't have it all. Philip Wong knows the saying but has nonetheless found a way to pursue his two passions, soccer and veterinary studies, at the same time.
The 19-year-old winger has received a rare soccer scholarship from the Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Tennessee in the United States in recognition of his sporting talent. Starting in September, he will play for the school team in the South Atlantic Conference, a Division II level of competition in the NCAA, while studying for a veterinary degree.
"It is a win-win situation for my academic and sporting career," said Wong, a first-year student in electronic engineering at the Polytechnic University. He took the course because there was no vet school in Hong Kong. "I like biology and the courses are something I am really interested in. This opportunity also reignites my passion for football."
It is a win-win situation for my academic and sporting career. I like biology and the courses are something I am really interested in. This opportunity also reignites my passion for football
Wong was seen as a promising star before his graduation from Diocesan Boys' School last year. He was the sole recipient of the Bauhinia Bowl outstanding footballer award presented by the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation two years ago, and led his school to win the All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying title last year.
But the talented young player missed several chances to reach the next level. In 2013, Wong was spotted by Thai Premier League side Chiangrai United when he represented Hong Kong at the Asian Schools Championship in Thailand.
They invited him to join their training for the next season. "It was a great chance. Football in Thailand is on the rise," he said.
"But I was about to finish my Form Six studies and then take the public exams last year. I had to finish my secondary school education and their league kicked off in spring. I was forced to abandon that opportunity."
He also missed out on the chance to play in Hong Kong's new Premier League. "I trained with BC Rangers for the past two seasons. The training was good but I only played one match," said Wong.
He was invited by his school team coach, Fung Hoi-man, who also trains district team Southern, to join his side, but eventually they decided against playing in the Premier League because of financial difficulties.
"That was a blow and I thought of putting my football dream aside," said Wong.
"Now the scholarship can possibly open a gate for me to turn professional. LMU is not a top team in the college game, but at the same time, scouts always attend the matches and I hope I can impress them and get a club offer."
The LMU scholarship will cover at least 80 per cent of his tuition fees and adjustments can be made, depending on Wong's academic and sports performance each year.
With the scholarship application taking months to be processed and with success not guaranteed, Wong chose to accept an admission offer by the Poly University. When the LMU deal was approved he ended his local studies.
Wong will represent Southern in the FA Cup play-off with Wong Tai Sin today.
"I expect a close match and I will certainly give it my all. I want to show people that I am better than I was with Rangers."
Fung, who has been coaching Wong for 10 years, said his student had the potential to turn professional. "He is talented, determined and self-confident. He is a quality player in attack and defence, and he scores goals," said Fung. "I hope he can gain international exposure. We welcome him to showcase his talent in Southern again."
Wong said he would report to his US school in mid-August and he expected to undergo rigorous training to build up strength.
"The season starts in September," said Wong. "I need to deliver my best in the first couple of matches to make my mark.
"Veterinary studies can take six to seven years to complete, with surgical studies and placement in the latter half. If in the first couple of years I can make a breakthrough in the game and I get a good offer, I can put my studies on hold. If not, I can keep going with my studies."
This is a great read about our student-athlete by Kevin Kung email@example.com: For the official version, please visit: http://www.scmp.com/sport/hong-kong/article/1725971/all-work-and-play-teenage-hong-kong-footballer-philip-wong