History-making female coach to take on World Cup winner Scolari

Creating history seems to come almost naturally for Chan Yuen Ting, the pioneering manager of Hong Kong side Eastern Sports Club, who earlier this year became the first female coach to win a men’s professional league.

Scolari Chan

Luiz Felipe Scolari (left) and Chan Yuen Ting Source: Getty Images

The quietly spoken 28-year-old will make more history next year when she becomes the first female to coach in the AFC Champions League.

On February 22, Eastern will play their first ever game in the ACL against no-less than Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande - six-time Chinese Super League champions, two-time ACL winners and coached by none other than World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Things won't get much easier for Chan after also being drawn in Group G alongside Korean giants Suwon Bluewings and either Japanese sides Urawa Reds or Kawasaki Frontale.

But far from being daunted and overawed Chan, who was named the AFC Women’s Coach of the Year earlier this month, is excited by the challenge of taking on the continent’s best teams and coaches.

And she says coming up against Brazilian 2002 FIFA World Cup winner Scolari will be a “great honour”.

“We are really looking forward to this new challenge,” she told The World Game from South Korea where she is currently completing her Pro Licence.

“As a team who represents Hong Kong we will try very hard to do the best and show our quality. At the very beginning we knew and understood how strong the teams are in the ACL, and every game will be very tough for us.

“I am not going to give any pressure to my players. The most important thing is that the ACL is a valuable opportunity for us to learn from opponents and improve ourselves.”

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Chan after she was appointed head coach of Eastern in December last year, admitting her early success has come even earlier than she expected.

“It is my dream [to be head coach], but it came quite early,” she admitted.

“In my coaching planning, I wanted to work as a professional team coach after a few years once I had enough experience, but in football life is very interesting, and you never know when the opportunities are going to come to you.

“So I just tried my best, it is quite an amazing story in my life and it’s the turning point of my football life.”

Josh Mitchell, the former Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets defender, joined Eastern in June and can’t speak highly enough of his new coach.

“She’s right up there,” he told The World Game from Bangkok, where he and the rest of his team-mates are on a training camp.

“She’s so thorough, she works hard, she thinks about the game constantly and each match is a different shift in tactics for who we’re playing, what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to improve – she’s been great.

“And she’s supported by a good staff and the club and they’re working really well together.

"They’ll be looking forward to the challenge too of the Champions League and the big stage and these big teams. They’ll be wanting as much as the players to put their best foot forward and show what they can do.”

Mitchell, 32, said the fact she was a woman who was four years younger than him had never been an issue.

“You don’t really consider it, you just don’t think about ‘oh she’s a woman and she’s younger than you' because she’s the manager,” he said.

“Whoever the manager is, whether they’re 87-years-old or 28-years-old, it doesn’t matter because they’re automatically given the respect as the manager.”

That support from her players has been massive, according to Chan, who admitted she was quite anxious when she took on the job last December.

“When I took over the job and I was really nervous and I was stressed, and the players knew that so they tried to help me as much as they can,” she explained.

“So they are more self-disciplined and we always emphasise that the team spirit is the most important and that’s why we can overcome a lot of difficulties and win the championship at the end of the season.”

Success has made Chan a wanted woman, but for the time being she is happy to remain at Eastern and continue her development.

“I got an offer from Spain in July,” she admitted. "But I rejected it because I would like to gain more experience at Eastern this year.

"In the future I plan to work in other countries in order to learn more and see other football cultures, especially the higher-level football countries like Japan, Korea or Australia.”

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5 min read
Published 14 December 2016 at 7:42pm
By Paul Williams