【WHY NOT BOLD】Hong Kong Women’s Football Team Players Embraces Bodybuilding to Become Legends of Strength Interview with Athlete Iris Kwok

Iris, a Hong Kong footballer and bodybuilding enthusiast, once said, ‘Enjoying a hobby, even through challenges, and finding joy in work.’ Iris currently plays for the Citizen Women’s Team in Hong Kong. She was introduced to football at a young age due to her two older brothers. 

Around the fifth grade of primary school, she saw other girls playing football and realized that she wanted to continue playing. She mentioned, ‘I also wanted to play with them. Football gives me a sense of excitement and speed. I have always loved sports since I was young, and the feeling of a group of people working towards a common goal is amazing. That’s why I find football so happy and enjoyable.’

Iris, a Hong Kong footballer and bodybuilding trainer.

The Unforgettable Experience of Playing Women’s Football in North Korea

One of the most memorable experiences for Iris was representing Hong Kong in the Asian Cup qualifiers in North Korea in 2017. North Korea is not a popular tourist destination, so it felt mysterious to them. She said, ‘Entering the country came with many unknowns, but we later discovered that the locals were friendly and welcoming.’

Iris mentioned, ‘Coincidentally, that year North Korea was hosting their first international marathon event, and some Hong Kong participants learned that the Hong Kong women’s football team was preparing to play there. They asked if the Football Association could arrange for them to watch our matches, and in the end, they bought tickets to support us. There were about 100 Hong Kong people.’

She smiled and said, ‘When the entire football stadium was filled with North Korean spectators, suddenly hearing a few words of Cantonese cheering for you was a touching and warm feeling that I will never forget.’ This experience allowed her to learn about the local culture in North Korea while gaining new competition experience. The heartwarming support made her feel great.

Facing Injuries and Summoning the Courage to Step Back onto the Field

After undergoing double cruciate ligament surgery on her left and right legs as a child, especially the second time when she tore her cruciate ligament again, it took courage and perseverance to return to the football field. Playing a match with an injury may require “just enduring it,” but when you are fully focused on the game, you enter a different state of mind, being completely engaged and focused. As she grew up, she always wanted to continue persevering.

Facing Iris’s injuries, her family naturally worried. She mentioned, ‘Every time I got injured, my mom would advise me not to play again, especially after the second injury. She repeatedly suggested that I should stop playing football. But I think she always knew how much I loved football and understood that she couldn’t stop me. She could only remind me to be careful.’ Her family knew that it was difficult to shake Iris’s love for football and silently supported her.

Balancing Professional Football and Realistic Career Progression

Having achieved her dream of becoming a football player and having experience as a football coach, Iris shared that in Hong Kong, the salary is still an important consideration for every individual. She said, ‘In the Hong Kong environment, working in the football industry may not offer a high salary, nor does it necessarily provide a long-term career plan. This is also why I transitioned to become a bodybuilding athlete and fitness coach.’

Iris is currently a private fitness coach, and even after switching careers, she has remained true to her original intention. She can still apply her fitness expertise to football, such as providing physical training for the youth team within the Hong Kong national team. She mentioned, ‘I hope to combine my football experience with fitness expertise and personally help a group of young girls who love football.’ She believes that as long as you have enough passion, even if life and career development present challenges, you will always find a way to continue enjoying your interests.

Increased Pathways for Young Female Football Players to Pursue

More and more female football players are transitioning to become physical education teachers, leading to a greater emphasis on the development of girls’ football in schools. The number of girls’ football teams in primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong has increased, and many schools are now actively promoting girls’ football, providing more opportunities for girls to participate in inter-school competitions. Additionally, there are now a plethora of options for girls to choose from when it comes to joining women’s football clubs.

Iris further elaborated, “These young players now have improved opportunities for international exposure and exchange programs. Even those aspiring to become professional players now have a multitude of avenues to explore. In recent years, many girls have gone abroad to develop their football skills, some even securing scholarships to study overseas based on their football achievements. The pathways to a professional career in women’s football have become more diverse and abundant, offering ample opportunities to ‘test the waters’.”

She added, “The current atmosphere and perception surrounding women’s football have changed significantly. Concerns such as ‘Will playing football make girls appear too masculine?’ are no longer prevalent. In fact, some girls take up the sport because their fathers have a passion for football and want to share the experience with their daughters, fostering a joyful parent-child bond.”

A Shift in Mindset: Embracing the Joy of Playing Amateur Football

Five years ago, Iris juggled teaching and playing football. However, two years ago, she felt the need to push her boundaries. She explained, “I realized it was time to pave the way for my future, considering my career prospects and the path I should take. Due to injuries, I made the decision to step back from playing for the Hong Kong team. The notable difference now is that I prioritize enjoying the process rather than placing excessively high expectations on myself.” Iris continues to play in the top division league, but she now approaches the game with a pure appreciation for the experience.

She shared that the journey of a female football player is not an easy one. As amateur athletes, they balance their regular jobs, attend school, and commit to football training. Iris expressed her admiration for every Hong Kong girl who engages in sports, particularly those who persevere. Preparing for international matches as an amateur football player means dedicating Saturday evenings to training while managing daytime work commitments.

Iris once mentioned that as long as you believe in yourself, you can become the person you aspire to be—the one who is truly unique and legendary.

She believes that the development of women’s football in Hong Kong is progressing positively due to the growing support it receives. Parents are now more open to providing girls with opportunities to play football. Therefore, she would like to encourage the younger girls or her juniors, saying, “If you have the desire, you should persist. Everyone encounters setbacks along the way, but reflecting on your initial motivation for playing football will help you stay determined.”


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