Chan Yuen-ting: Eastern’s ‘beef ball’ ready to face Big Phil

Chan Yuen-ting, coach of Hong Kong side Eastern, will make history on Wednesday when she becomes the first woman to take charge of a match in the AFC Champions League.

And it’s no ordinary game as Chan’s Eastern side face Luiz felipe Scolari’s six-time Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

Chan is already used to making history. Back in April last year she became the first woman to win a top-flight title in men’s professional football when Eastern captured the Hong Kong Premier League title – an achievement that earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Since then, she has earned more accolades including AFC Women’s Coach of the Year for 2016 as well as being named in the BBC’s Influential 100 Women of 2016.

It marks a remarkable journey in a short time for 28-year old, who only started out as a video analyst for another club, Pegasus, in 2010. She was offered the top job at Eastern in December 2015 because she was the only coach with an AFC license when the former coach left.

She has never looked back, despite initial doubts.

“At the beginning, I regretted becoming head coach. I was scared. I didn’t think I was qualified to lead one of the top teams in Hong Kong. I lacked experience but the club, the staff and the boss kept talking to me, encouraging me and supporting me,” she said.

With the club’s support she faced up to the challenge, and did so remarkably well. Leading the team to the league title, their first in more than two decades – losing just once along the way.

Now, ‘beef ball’, as she is affectionately known to the fans, is preparing for an even bigger challenge against their mega-rich neighbours from just across the border.

And she can’t wait to test herself.

Asked about the meeting with World Cup winner Scolari, she said: “It’s quite amazing, especially when you watch the games when he was coaching Brazil and they won the World Cup in 2002.

Chan can’t wait to pit her wits against ‘Big Phil’.

“I never imagined or expected this could happen but now we’re going to play against him so I feel excited and I’m looking forward to meeting him.

“But I know at this moment all I need to do is focus on our team and concentrate on the work that we are doing.”

Scolari, meanwhile, has also said that Guangzhou will not be taking the meeting with Eastern lightly, despite the obvious gulf in resources between the clubs.

After all, if anyone has earned that respect, it is Chan.

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