Slutomgång i AFC Champions Leagues gruppspel

Gruppspelet i ACL är inne på sin sista omgång och det finns fortfarande några platser kvar att slåss om i slutspelet. Dessutom har inget lag ännu säkrat förstaplatsen i respective grupp. Här kommer därför en gruppvis genomgång av förutsättningarna:

Group E:
Jeonbuk FC och Tianjin Quanjian är redan klara för nästa runda så morgondagens matcher handlar bara om vem av dem som blir etta i grupp E. Ett Jeonbuk-kryss hemma mot Kitchee, som säkrade sin andra raka ligatitel i Hong Kong så sent som i helgen men är sist i sin ACL-grupp, betyder att Quanjian behöver vinna med minst 7 bollar hemma mot Kashiwa Reysol för att sno åt sig gruppsegern. Väldigt lite talar därför för något annat än fortsatt koreanskt i topp.

Group F:
Ulsan Hyundai och Melbourne Victory slåss i teorin om en slutspelsplats men detta skulle kräva förlust bort mot Kawasaki Frontale samtidigt som Victory hemmaslår Shanghai SIPG och tar igen totalt 10 plusmål på koreanerna. SIPG reser dessutom till Melbourne imorgon med vetskapen om att de vid förlust riskerar att tappa förstaplatsen till Ulsan, vilket gör att en australiensisk målorgie känns än mer avlägsen.

Group G:
Den enda gruppen där inget lag ännu kvalificerat sig för nästa omgång. Guangzhou Evergrande är i topp men vid hemmaförlust mot Cerezo Osaka tappar de gruppsegern till gästerna och om Buriram United samtidigt bortaslår Jeju United så är det plötsligt en målskillnadshistoria som avgör om det blir kantonesiskt eller thailändskt i 32-delsfinalen. Vinner Jeju så är både Evergrande och Cerezo vidare oavsett inbördes resultat men japanerna har rest till Kina utan ett antal startspelare och ett kryss är inte nog för att avancera om Buriram vinner i Korea.

Group H:
Den enda grupp där alla lag fortfarande kan nå slutspel. Kashima Antlers är redan klara och behöver bara en pinne hemma mot Suwon Bluewings för att säkra förstaplatsen. Suwon behöver, å sin sida, en seger för att vara säkra på att undvika respass ifall vi får en segrare i kvällens möte mellan Sydney FC och Shanghai Shenhua i Australien. En förlust för koreanerna betyder att båda utmanarna har chansen att kliva förbi dem och ett kryss att Sydneys hopp om avancemang fortfarande lever.

Det ser med andra ord ut som att det kan bli en riktig nagelbitare ikväll men att morgondagen snarare handlar om inbördes placeringar mellan ettor och tvåor än att fastställa vilka de faktiskt är.

AFC Champions League Group Stage, final round

The ACL-groups are into their final round and there are still a few spots up for grabs in the in the eastern division playoffs, and all four group winners have yet to be definitively decided. Here’s the group-by-group breakdown of what is still to play for:

Group E:
Jeonbuk Hyundai and Tianjin Quanjian have already secured their places in the round of 16 so it’s down to who comes out ahead out of the two. A draw for Jeonbuk at home to Kitchee, who brought home their second consecutive league title back in Hong Kong just the other day but are bottom of the group in the ACL, would mean Quanjian need to win by at least 7 at home to Kashiwa Reysol to have any chance of stealing the top spot. Hence, everything points to the Koreans remaining in front of the Chinese tomorrow evening.

Group F:
Ulsan Hyundai and Melbourne Victory are, in theory, fighting to join Shanghai SIPG in the next round. However, Ulsan only need a single point away to Kawasaki Frontale to keep Victory at bay and, should they fail to do so, the Australians have 10 goals to make up for in relation to the Koreans. As SIPG travel to Melbourne tomorrow knowing a loss puts them under threat of falling behind Ulsan, the chances of an Aussie scoring-orgy are slim to none.

Group G:
The only group where no side is yet sure of progressing, Guangzhou Evergrande are in front but if the they were to lose at home to Cerezo Osaka tonight, the visitors would claim the top sport and the Cantonese would be in a goal-difference affair with Buriram United for second place, assuming the Thai side defeats Jeju United away. If Jeju wins, Evergrande and Cerezo are through no matter what. However, Cerezo have travelled to China without several first team regulars and a draw is not enough for them to survive the group if Buriram comes out on top in Korea.

Group H:
The only group where all sides still have the chance of progressing. Kashima Antlers are through and only need a draw at home to Suwon Bluewings to win the group. Suwon, on the other hand, need a win to be sure of avoiding elimination if there is a winner in tonight’s encounter in Australia between Sydney FC and Shanghai Shenhua. A loss would put the Koreans at risk of being surpassed by either of the challengers, and a draw would still keep Sydney’s hopes alive.

It looks like tonight may well be a nail-biter, while tomorrow evening is more about deciding the order of the first two, rather than who they’ll be.

Chan Yuen-Ting, the first female manager to win a men’s professional championship

With just about every eye of the footballing world focused on Leicester City, about to do the impossible and win the English Premier League last spring, an even greater, albeit far less commercially viable, part of the sport’s history was taking place, less than 12 hours eastbound flight from London. On April 22, Eastern Sports Club avoided the risk of a final day decider in the Hong Kong Premier League, against reigning champions Kitchee, by defeating South China and securing their first league title in over two decades.

Nothing extraordinary, had it not been for the previous season’s runner up making a managerial change in early December of 2015. Yeung Ching-Kwong then made the move to Meizhou Hakka FC in the Chinese League 1 and Eastern promoted Chan Yuen-Ting to head coach. Chan was, in many ways, the logical choice. As Yeung’s assistant, and a coaching instructor at the Hong Kong FA holding the second highest level of certificate available for coaches under the AFC, Chan was next in line for the job. The decision still attracted attention, not only because the job was given to a rather inexperienced 27-year old, but also as Chan became something almost unheard of: the female head coach of a professional men’s football team. Four and a half months later, Eastern chairman Peter Leung, who’ve later described the decision as “a no brainer”, was proven right beyond any doubt as Chan lifted the Premier League-trophy, and etched her name in the history books as the first woman ever in charge of a male championship winning side.

A road less travelled, to say the least, so how did Chan Yuen-Ting get so far down it? Well, it’s been a bumpy ride. As with many football fans of her generation, the interest was kindled as an early teen by David Beckham. But her parents weren’t very fond of the idea of their daughter taking part in such unladylike activities and Yuen-Ting had to forge her mom’s signature to be able to join the Hong Kong FA’s summer program. Later, when Chan was studying geography at university, her interest evolved into passion. She joined a local team (women’s football is still at amateur level in Hong Kong) at 19, made her way into the Hong Kong representation squad, and even managed to make football the focus of her thesis paper (a study of how climate, population policies and geographical distribution of stadiums have influenced the sport in Hong Kong), before Premier League-club Pegasus offered her a position as a data analyst in 2010. Alongside the job at Pegasus, the young geographer attained a master’s degree in Sports science and health management as well as, in 2013, her AFC coaching license. These further studies were financed through private loans, as her parents still didn’t consider football a proper vocation, but rather would have liked to see her pursue a career teaching.
Her employer showed greater confidence and Chan advanced to roles in charge of the Pegasus U18-side, as well as assistant coach at Pegasus and Southern District, before making the move to Eastern in 2015. Then, after Yeung relocated to mainland China, the club didn’t hesitate to offer the job to Chan. She, on the other hand, did hesitate to whether she had the required experience and skill, and declined the offer at first. However, the board wouldn’t take no for an answer and convinced Chan that she had the full trust and support of the club, convincing her to re-evaluate and, finally, accept the position. Only days later, Eastern beat one of their top competitors, South China, by a whopping 6-1 in Chans first match in charge, to kick off a success story that less than five months later made history and is really still going on.

Since that day in late April, Chan has guided Eastern into the group stage of the AFC Champions League and, unsurprisingly, won awards as Manager of the Year in Hong Kong and Female Manager of the Year in Asia 2016. In addition to that, Eastern are four points ahead of Kitchee, who has one game in hand (to be played against Chans former club Pegasus on Monday), with two rounds to go in the Premier League. In other words: mark down Saturday the 6th of May in your calendars. That’s when Eastern will host Kitchee in what, most likely, will be a winner takes all showdown on the final day of the league season.

Chan Yuen-Ting herself prefers to play it all down. She says the foundation to Eastern’s success was laid by her predecessor and that she simply tweaked a few details based on what she learned from Yeung. She also thinks that having a female manager is not controversial at all, as Hong Kong doesn’t have discrimination, but rather, positions are filled based on qualifications (the stats tell a different story as women are, for example, about as common as unicorns in the boardrooms of the city, although establishing that Eastern simply chose the right person for the job may be enough analysis on this occasion). Also, according to Yuen-Ting, mother and father Chan have slowly started to take a different view on what football could offer a woman in Hong Kong.

This is the English version of a guest article i wrote for Swedish website SvenskaFans. The original text is available at:

Chan Yuen-Ting, den första kvinnliga mästartränaren

Idag har jag fått äran att göra mitt första, men förhoppningsvis inte sista, inhopp som gästkrönikör på SvenskaFans med en text om Chan Yuen-Ting. Den hittar ni i sin helhet här: