Meet the New Zealand-born Malaysian goalkeeper who once trained with Kelantan
What’s your full name and what position do you play?
My name is Ernest Wong Wen Hao. I play as a goalkeeper for Eastern Suburbs AFC, a semi-professional club competing in the Lotto Northern Premier League in New Zealand.
Were you born in New Zealand?
Yes, I was. My mum and dad grew up in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur respectively before they moved to New Zealand in 1988.
Are you currently the first-choice goalkeeper at your club?
I have been the second-choice goalkeeper this season, but I have had a few opportunities to play. It is disappointing that I am not starting every week, but that’s what it is like for most, if not all, goalkeepers at some stage in their careers.
Who do you model yourself after?
I like to watch Hugo Lloris and Iker Casillas.
What can you tell us about your current club?
Eastern Suburbs have always been a big club, from the younger grades all the way to the seniors. In regards to the senior team, this season we have won the league as well as the Catham Cup for the sixth time in the club’s history. The club have many players from overseas and professional environments, so there is a lot of talent. There are also players who developed their game from a young age at the highest level in New Zealand, so they have good experience as well.
As you’re a semi-pro footballer, what do you do for a living?
I studied accounting and international business at university, so I used to be an accountant at a small food production and distribution company. Currently I work for Eastern Suburbs in a communications role on top of coaching the junior goalkeepers at the club.
Football-wise, where you do see yourself in the next few years?
I would like to test myself at the highest level, whether in New Zealand or overseas.
Have you thought of playing professionally in Malaysia?
Yes I have and I would love to have a chance! I actually had the opportunity to train with Kelantan for a week in 2014. Back then, a coach I used to work with in New Zealand knows Bojan Hodak [former Kelantan head coach] and they set me up to train with the club for a week. However, by the time I went to Kelantan, Hodak had left and Steve Darby was the new head coach. One of Hodak’s staff, Miro Petric, was still around at that time, so I stayed with him.
Was it a trial?
It was a training experience rather than a trial, so nothing came from it. Darby gave me some good feedback though.
How was the experience at Kelantan?
It was great because I got to train in a professional environment as well as with Malaysia’s number one goalkeeper, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
If New Zealand faced Malaysia in an international match, which team would you root for?
I hope it would end in a 2-2 draw [laughs].
(Pictures: Ernest Wong & Eastern Suburbs AFC)