Calvin Harris, the Hong Kong and Adidas Footballer Playing for FC Cincinnati
May 23, 2022
Calvin Harris (no, not that one) has shone bright in 2022, defining himself as a hungry attacker with a bright future playing with the Ohio-based FC Cincinnati in the Major League Soccer (MLS), the U.S.’s professional soccer league.
The British-born Hong Konger began his dreams as a professional football player during his time at West Island School in Pok Fu Lam, before transferring to study and play in New Zealand. Today, he battles teams across the MLS’ subcontinental league table, training to reach new heights daily in his decade-long footballing life.
The Beat Asia caught up with the player over Zoom to discuss his formidable journey playing in Asia, draw to the game, what the MLS means to him, and his future under FC Cincinnati.
"I fit in really quickly,” Calvin told The Beat Asia, recalling his immediate ease acclimatising to Hong Kong at 10 years old when he and his family emigrated to the Asian city.
Calvin, alongside his parents and younger brother, began his life in the city living in sunny Pok Fu Lam studying at his former alma mater Kennedy School, then transferring to West Island School in Sandy Bay.
“That was down to sport. Getting involved made things a lot easier for me because that’s what I love doing. I made friends straightaway. Life was not too difficult for me moving over here.” He recalls the transition from the U.K. impacted his family greater. Playing football helped him see the city and habituate.
Football has run in the family, with Calvin sustaining the Harris tradition of football as a passion and matches streamed live on TV. “My father played for Sheffield United [football club in the U.K.], all my friends and family watched football, I would watch games with my grandparents when I was younger, my dad’s side supported Arsenal and my mum’s side [supported] Everton.”
Joining the established Hong Kong Football Club in 2012 on a youth contract, Calvin trained religiously in his “second home.” Every weekend from three o'clock in the afternoon till 11 o'clock at night, he would train, play in matches, and kick about with friends on the Happy Valley astroturf pitches.
His defining moment at the cusp of his professional career came during an international school's 11-a-side tournament at King George V school in Mong Kok. Scouts from New Zealand watched 14-year-old Calvin play in secret, before the recon team spoke with his father after about a contract with the Wellington Phoenix FC youth team in New Zealand. Within six months after scouts spoke to him and his father, Calvin was training in Wellington. “It came out of the blue, completely random. I did not expect it,” he said.
In July 2016, Calvin signed with the youth team of Wellington Phoenix FC, a south-island Kiwi team playing professional football in Australia’s A-League. Two years following, he was promoted to the reserve team to train with professional players.
Turning 18 in 2018, Calvin began scouring his options for both a career path to play in a professional football league and study for a degree. Without a New Zealand citizenship, Calvin was barred from playing regionally or internationally. His teammates set their sights on options to play collegiate football alongside studies in Europe; however, the U.S. was a calling.
“I followed a mate to the library, and he helped show me how to send out emails [contacting schools in the U.S.]. I told myself, I’ll send out some emails and see what I get back. From there, I was able to get into Wake Forest University, the school that I was looking at the most.”
The decision to head to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to study at “Wake” was appropriate. “[Studying in the U.S. and playing football] you can become a professional out of it. If everything goes wrong or get injured, the worst you get is a good degree from a good school. It was a no-brainer!”
Calvin enrolled in the soccer team in spring of 2019 and wowed his coaches during his freshman season and sophomore year in 2020. In 2019, he appeared in every 23 matches, starting 16 times, scoring six goals, and registering three assists. In 2020, he starred in nine of the team’s fall matches, scored four goals against powerhouses UAB, Duke University, and Clemson University, found two assists, and helped his team secure 10 points.
His stellar performances playing with Wake “Demon Deacons” men's football team in the NCAA first division took the notice of higher-ups in the MLS. Wowed by his potential, a professional team picked Calvin for the MLS SuperDraft.
Prior to the draft in January 2021, Calvin signed a contract with Generation Adidas, a venture between MLS and U.S. Soccer, enabling the footballer to enter the draft earlier than mandated. He was one of five youth footballers to be awarded the notable contract.
The forward won over more than 80 youth players, and four other Britons, to place second in the draft joining Ohio-capital FC Cincinnati on a professional contract, leaving Wake in his second year “to become pro.” Calvin attributes his personality and qualities as a speedy, tactful forward for placing in his MLS position.
"It was a great feeling,” Calvin described of his entrance to the MLS’ FC Cincinnati, playing among the league’s best professional football players. "Going in on the first day, you have nerves. You sit in the changing room, and you are surrounded by full grown men, it's different than playing in college.”
“Luckily, in New Zealand, I had that experience training with the first team. I had the experience of going in as a younger guy and sitting down next to [professional] players. It’s obviously very intimidating, no one's gonna (sic) tell you otherwise. [However], you still know what you can do, confident in your abilities. It was a mixture of excitement and nerves.”
Calvin attributes his early success with his new club to the opportunities presented to him at Wake. His scholarship at the school, family-like support from the coaching team, and assistance driving his draft place have enabled him to reach new heights in his promising career.
Since his January 2021 inclusion, the footballer has registered 18 matches played with his club, living in his adoptive south-west Ohio home. Life in Cincinnati is fun, but the weather is cold, something Calvin had not experienced in Hong Kong. “It’s freezing mate! Cold as!” he told The Beat Asia. “I like Cincinnati and it’s been easy settling in. Everything new but I love living here. It’s a growing city.”
“I’m a simple person. I can just play football, come home, and relax. That is what I did in New Zealand for four years. Wake up, go to school, get in the bus to training, come back home, do some work, and repeat. I'm kind of used to it. I'm quite simple and straightforward. So for me it's not a hard change.”
When asked whether he misses Hong Kong, his former sacred home for four years, Calvin answered: “Of course, mate. I miss my mates, the weather, and the [Hong Kong Football Club] a lot. I love that place. It’s unreal.”
“Every time I say I used to live in Hong Kong for four years and my family lived there for eight, [people] can’t quite get their heads around that.” Calvin feels the warmth of Hong Kong’s “huge international community” in the U.S. with "very nice people” willing to say hi on the streets, unlike his home country of the U.K.
The future is bright for Calvin, but he prefers to prepare for the short term instead of grand plans. “For me, I just want to improve and see what happens, and to do as best as I can. When opportunities come, you take them, and that's what I've done so far.”
“It has treated me well, because you can sometimes get a bit too head of yourself when you look at future goals and aspirations. Now, it's all short term. But I feel as if I'm in a good place, and [feel as if] I can definitely do something in the future.”
For Calvin, life has begun and holds no limit for the adventurous Hong Konger in his fight to score.
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