Former Joeys and Young Socceroos midfielder Jared Lum has set his sights on playing for Hong Kong’s national football team.
A western Sydney product, Lum played alongside the likes of Socceroos Maty Ryan and Aaron Mooy as a youngster, went through the NSW Institute of Sport and AIS programs, and represented Australia at both Under-17 and U-20 levels.
The former Sydney FC National Youth League captain moved to Hong Kong in 2016 and has become a star in the special administrative region.
The midfielder has won everything on offer in the Hong Kong Premier League with Kitchee, including two league titles, two senior shields, three FA Cups, a Sapling Cup and a League Cup, but has now embarked on a new adventure with local rivals R&F.
Lum is signed with R&F until the end of the 2022 season and is eyeing a potential international call-up to the national team.
The midfielder is actually eligible to represent three countries at senior level – Australia, Hong Kong and Fiji, though he has already knocked back the latter.
Lum’s grandmother grew up in the Hong Kong suburb of Happy Valley, but he must be a resident for seven years before he can obtain a passport and turn out for ‘The Strength’.
“When I was playing in the NPL, I played in a few Fijian tournaments,” the 28-year-old told The World Game.
“The national team coach at the time came and watched me play here in Hong Kong, and at the time I was all for it, but I turned it down. There is a chance I can play for Hong Kong as well, so we’ll see what happens.
“If the chance comes for sure, that’s definitely something I would look forward to. But to get a passport you have to wait seven years, not five years, so that means it’s still two and a half years down the track.
“I’ll be 30 when that happens, so we’ll see down the track. The doors are open there and I guess I just have to keep performing and hopefully that comes along.”
Lum left Marconi Stallions in the NPL NSW four years ago to move to Hong Kong and admits he never thought he would be in Asia this long.
“I thought this would be an opportunity to play and get some life experience, and then hopefully go back to Australia,” he said.
“But I’ve definitely made it home now, both of my sons were born here and obviously the success we had with Kitchee was just crazy at the time.
“What we did is not going to be done [again] for some time, even in Hong Kong. R&F are a big team in China and they wanted to have a second team in Hong Kong.
“They want to improve Hong Kong football and put funds into a team that can compete with Kitchee and Eastern. So now this team has come in and upped everything. It’s just made an extra competitive team.”
An attacking midfielder or winger, Lum has thrived in the former British colony where his club teammates have included Uruguayan great Diego Forlan and former Liverpool and Juventus midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I came here, especially with Kitchee,” he said.
“I was in the NPL with Marconi and it wasn’t really a challenge anymore.
"When I came over here, we were pretty much playing with a team of foreigners and the local players they had were national team players, so I enjoyed it from the get-go because it was a scenario where I was learning again.
"I was going to training and having to really push myself to be in the starting XI. It was good.
“Obviously as the years went I established myself in the team. If I didn’t come to Hong Kong I wouldn’t have had the experience I’ve had with Kitchee - we played against Tottenham, we played against Man City.
“Diego Forlan came and signed for our team, we had Momo Sissoko. Because they have money to put into foreigners, the foreigners here can be top notch.
"But there’s a limited amount of local players, that’s what’s holding Hong Kong back at the moment.
“You have your top three or four teams and after that the level goes down a bit. [But] overall the level’s quite good.”
2020 has been a difficult year for football in Hong Kong with not only the impact of the coronavirus but also a series of anti-extradition protests for the past 12 months.
The league season is set to resume in August after being stopped in March.
“Our season was interrupted at the start of the season because of the protests,” Lum explained.
“And then now COVID-19 came, and it was interrupted again so it’s literally been the most on-and-off season in my life. It’s just one week we’re playing, then we’re not playing for three weeks.
“The protesters here are very good, they tell you where the protest is going to be before it starts.
"As long as you’re aware of that and don’t go into the main area of where the protests are... but in saying that, the biggest protest was in a university.
“They shut down everything for two weeks and that university is two minutes from my apartment. Me and a couple of teammates went and had a look at it and it was pretty much a warzone.
“There were police trucks on fire, it was definitely eye-opening. The situation with the coronavirus was improving up until last week.
“But in the last 10 days we’ve had 70 to 100 cases a day, so it’s put a stop on training for the meantime. But that’s life at the moment I guess.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with the virus.”