Chan Man, the player who had to go to work

Photo: Benfica Macau

Chan Man is 24 years of age, has accumulated 23 caps for the Macau national team, and was 2016 Macau footballer of the year. In professional life, he is also a firefighter. This is the history of a player who missed an international match because he had to go to work.
Benfica Macau made history again after their second win in the AFC Cup. This time they beat North Korean side Hwaebul in Pyongyang. Benfica were the underdogs, but two goals from Carlos Leonel and one by David Tetteh were enough to cancel out the Hwaebul lead. Benfica is now joint top of the group with two wins in two matches. This important win was a big achievement, especially as the Macanese club were without some of their key players, including right back Chan Man.

The Macau Elite League is an amateur league with some semi-professional teams. While those semi-professional teams have some professional players, who are mainly foreign aids, most other teams are solely composed of local amateur players, which work during the week, practice after work, and play on the weekend. Benfica Macau is one of those teams. That fact was never a problem before, but with the first ever participation of the team in the AFC Cup group stage, this is becoming an issue as some of the group stage matches are played during the week outside of Macau, meaning that most of the players need to have special authorization from their employees or have to take vacation leave to play those matches. Some players had even to choose between representing Benfica in the AFC Cup or the Macau national team, because they do not have enough holidays to play all of the games.

That was also the case for the Benfica Macau match in Pyongyang. While most of the players managed to take vacation to play the match, Chan Man, who is a firefighter, had to stay in Macau.

Chan Man is one of the best Macau born players and is considered by many (including this author) to be the best Macau player after Leong Ka-hang. In fact, Chan Man already had a small stint in Europe with the Portuguese team Olhanense SC, meaning that he is a key player for Benfica and his absence was therefore of great significance when the Macau champions had to take on Hwaebul.

Nonetheless, this is the reality of Macau football, and teams have learned to live with this issues. In order to achieve the minimum number of players for the match, Benfica even had to include two injured players in the match squad to avoid punishment from the AFC.

This is the other side of continental AFC competitions. Most teams are fully professional with full stadiums every week, but other teams are smaller and therefore face different challenges. For some teams from smaller Asian football regions, participating in such competition is as big of a challenge as it is for the professional teams to be a title contender.

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