With his side being in the thick of a World Cup qualifying battle, Hong Kong head coach Kim Pan-gon made good use of a recent international friendly against Thailand by taking a peek into the team’s future, awarding teenager Tan Chun-lok with his international debut in the process. Despite Hong Kong suffering a controversial 0:1 defeat against the host, Tan rewarded the faith of his coach by patrolling the Hong Kong midfield with tireless running, all-out effort and an overall very mature performance.
The tough-tackling midfielder looked back at the game against Thailand and rated his international debut as a virtual dream-come-true experience. “I knew I had a pretty good chance of playing against Thailand from how we had trained the days leading up to the game. I was actually a bit nervous before the match but once I went out for the warm-up and started working up a sweat, the nerves just seemed to die down,” recalled Tan. “Entering the pitch as part of the starting line-up definitely meant a lot to me. It was everything that I had ever hoped for as a kid and at that moment, I felt like I had realized my childhood dream of putting on this prestigious shirt and representing Hong Kong.”
Tan was actually selected for the earlier China and Qatar World Cup qualifiers but remained on the bench for both tilts, yet that did not stop the promising young stud from feeling positive about his early experience with the Hong Kong senior squad. “Being part of the Hong Kong squad for the China and Qatar games were fabulous experiences for me. The stadiums were electrifying on both occasions and despite sitting on the bench, I was still desperate to get on the pitch and contribute. The occasions did not overwhelm me at all because as you grow up, you always want to play against the best, compete at the highest possible level and play on the biggest stage. That is what playing football is all about,” Tan stated.
Tan, who plies his trade for Hong Kong Pegasus in the local premier league, revealed it has been a rather smooth transition stepping up into the Hong Kong squad, especially with how the senior players have taken the international rookie under their wings. “The senior players have really treated me well and have welcomed me with open arms. They were constantly encouraging me and giving me useful advices, reminding me to avoid over-doing things on the pitch and instead, should focus on executing the simple plays before gradually taking things to another level,” said the nineteen year-old.
Plays with a fearless attitude and an aggressive style that betray his true age, the young midfield enforcer spoke about his preferred method to stay calm ahead of big games. “My whole approach is about not getting nervous and avoid being passive. As a central midfielder, I try to make sure I stay vocal on the pitch and bark out instructions if needed. The way I look at it, even if I am giving out wrong instructions, it is still crucial that I voice them out because it allows my teammates to realize what is on my mind and correct me at that precise moment,” offered Tan, who bounced back from a nasty foot injury suffered in the Incheon Asian Games to make it into the Hong Kong senior squad.
While unable to stop Hong Kong from falling against Thailand on his Hong Kong debut, Tan managed to garner some well-deserved praise from head coach Kim Pan-gon for his tidy work on the pitch. However, the humble Tan insisted he still has a lot to learn in his football career. “I try to keep things in perspective and have a balanced view on my career, both short-term and long-term,” explained the mature Tan. “Now that the Thailand game is over, I will continue to work hard and see what might happen for the Bhutan game. At the same time, I am also fully aware that I need to deliver for my club Hong Kong Pegasus on a regular basis because playing well for your club side, week-in and week-out, is basically what drives your international career.”
Combining the drive to succeed and a fearless attitude on the pitch, it should not be long before Hong Kong supporters will see Tan Chun-lok patrolling the midfield in Hong Kong colours once again.
Source - http://www.hkfa.com/news_details/13222