Wahid’s performance vindicated the coach’s confidence. His goal in the game against England was lauded in the tournament’s official match report as Drogba-esque (a reference to the English Premiership side Chelsea’s iconic striker).
“Many of the impressive moments in the game showed me that he applied what he learnt in practices very well. It proved he was really dedicated to the training.” Leung says.
Wahid returns the compliment. “Coach has taught me a lot,” he says. “I am small, so if I want to play in the first division, I need to bulk up, I need to be able to run at opponents. He used to be a defender, so he knows these things.”
His temperament has also changed. Although he still gets upset and frustrated during games, he no longer tries to blame anyone. Instead, he has learnt to deal with his emotions on his own instead of hitting out.
“We are like friends. He listens to me,” says Leung. “The key is to tell him not to lose his temper easily, in a mild way.”
Apart from the coaching staff, Wahid also has a good relationship with his teammates. At the beginning, as most of the players are Chinese, they felt it was hard to communicate with Wahid and his cousin, Dick, because of language and cultural differences.
“Sometimes Hong Kong people speak Cantonese so fast that Wahid and Dick can hardly keep up,” says team Vice-Chairman Ho Wai-chi, “at the same time they speak Urdu and Pashto to each other, so others also don’t understand.”
But after months of training and playing together, then spending days and nights together in Brazil, they now understand and respect each other more. Wahid and Dick try to speak as much Cantonese as possible and the other team players try to speak more slowly in Cantonese. Wahid also acted as an interpreter when they gave interviews in English in Brazil.
“It impressed and cheered me a lot during the Brazil trip, when the Chinese team players actively asked the catering volunteers not to provide any pork because of Wahid and Dick’s religious customs.” Ho Wai-Chi says.
The whole team now is full of warmth and support for each other. They also appreciate the care shown to them by the team organizers. “The team secretary Sonny (Yau) works really hard. He often asks me about my job. He cares about us. We sometimes have gatherings and sharing sessions,” says Wahid.