Split hits the Fan

By Phil Lanning 13/11/2020

IT'S difficult to imagine trying to build a darts career in the UK when your family and home country 6,000 miles away is engulfed in freedom protests and anti Government riots. But that’s the stark and scary reality for Kai Fan Leung. The Hong Kong World Cup star is touted as a new major force of the sport from Asia having secured his PDC tour card in January.

But this talented newcomer, who speaks fluent English, believes that curiously the unrest in his home country could well end up being a help to his career. He revealed: “I told my wife I need to survive until the prize money is big enough for me to move all the family over to the UK, we also have a three-year-old daughter. “But it’s a strange thing now with the situation with the security laws in Hong Kong, everything has changed in a political environment.

“The British foreign office is saying now that Hong Kong citizens born before 1997 with a British travel passport might be able to get a BNO, a British Overseas National visa next January. That means I can stay five years in the UK as a resident. “That actually might help me to pursue a career here. I’ve got a two-year visa but what if I lose the tour card? Then I’ve got no road to go, I’d have to go back to Hong Kong for sure. I could get a one-year visa after every year but that’s a lot of money. “If I can stay here for longer, even if I lose my tour card, I can still carry on with my career.

“When you have family and kids because of the imposing of new laws whether that will hurt my child. What if my child is a politician or pursues a political career? It’s always about freedom. But it’s very hard to judge how things will turn out on what is right and what is wrong. “Many of my friends and family are considering moving away. But it’s very hard because they have a property and have to give up everything to leave. You can’t give up partially, if you leave you to have to give up everything.”

There’s no doubt that the most exciting part of the sport is the emerging countries really making a mark. Fan Leung, 36, is sure that there will be more world champions to come from Asia like Mikuru Suzuki but the sacrifice to make it in Europe is a huge hurdle. He added: “I do believe one day there will be a men’s World Champion from the far east.

Obviously, Mikuru has already proved it can be done, back-to-back. “The standard in Asia is now crazy. I’m not the best Asian player for sure. Maybe you can say that because I’m in the PDC and I did well in the soft tip world which helps a lot. But if you see other players in Asia, the quality is very high. “I think it’s very hard for players from my part of the world. It’s a huge sacrifice to come over to the UK for the Q School as a first step.

Then you have to live here to play. You can’t commute back and forward. “You look at other big Hong Kong stars like Marco Fu in snooker. He had to live in Scotland for a while to achieve what he wanted in the UK and that took two years. “That’s the toughest part. If you have a talent, there’s no system for those who can move over from my country or part of the world.

“If you play Q School it easily cost you five thousand quid to play. And that’s not knowing whether you can win or not. That’s a big burden for most of the Asian players. “You just have to gamble yourself a little bit.

“I have to thank Paul Lim, he has been such a big help. We practised together and in 2019 Paul and I played a lot of tournaments, shared rooms, travelled with him. He gave me a lot of vision and confidence. “It really helps that I’ve played in big events. When I came to Q School in 2017 I was with Royden Lam and I was just standing behind watching him.

“That was a crazy year for me. I won the North & East Asia Qualifier and I experience everything. I did Q School, UK Open which I drove from Heathrow to Minehead for four hours. “I was then in World Cup and World Championships. Of course, I didn’t proceed, I was also knocked out in the first rounds. But that experience in defeat helps me now.

“I’m not like other players, they started at a very young age in their early teens. I threw my first darts in soft tip in 2013 and steel tip two years later. I can’t believe how quickly it has happened. Just five years later from first throwing a dart I was in a World Cup and World Championship.”

A big help for Fan Leung was a chance meeting with Stephen Bunting at the opening PDC Players Championship in Barnsley. He added: “In March I went back to Hong Kong during the pandemic. Then I returned for the Summer Series and now I’ll stay in the UK until the Autumn Series and see what happens then. “When I won the tour card I decided to move over to the UK because my cousin is in Liverpool and I stay there. “When you engage in any sports in any country, you have to live there. Fly-in, fly-out is no way to make it happen.

“I took a chance to stay here. I have to wait for prize money in the bank account to stay alive. After the first event in Barnsley luckily I sat at the same table as Stephen Bunting. “We were chatting because he played a lot of soft tip in 2014 and then we realised he lived in St.Helens and I was in Liverpool. So I spend a lot of time with him and that helps so much. He is so experienced in darts, playing the sport for over 20 years. He knows everything. He tells me to calm down if I lose!

“In Hong Kong it’s so easy to get someone to practice with you, in UK that’s not so easy to do. It’s good when you find a World Champion."

“Stephen is also turning me into a Liverpool fan. He has taken me to Anfi eld a couple of times. He took me to Liverpool against West Ham and they won and then Atletico Madrid and they lost.

“It’s great when you go to the stadium, everyone knows Stephen a lot of people support him. He also took me to the Premier League in Liverpool when he was a contender earlier this year. The atmosphere was wow, so different.”

Fan Leung also reckons he can be a big hit in the UK thanks to Wayne Rooney, mainly because he can hopefully ditch a rather disparaging school moniker and use his real name again! He revealed: “I am called Fat Beauty because of what I was called at school, it’s not a darts nickname. I was 12 or 13-years-old and my classmate behind me in history one day when I answered a question he saw my butt and said ‘you are so Fat Beauty’.

I rarely say Fat Beauty, just shortened to FB. “But my main nickname is Kevin instead of Kai. After I was born my sister called me Kevin. But I don’t mind the name Kai now because since I played in the PDC and people know this name because Wayne Rooney called his son that name!”

No matter what he’s called, this Fan is getting a lot of new supporters. A name to definitely watch.

Lead image: PDC

This article originally appeared in Darts World 571 and in the 2020 Souvenir edition download here:https://bit.ly/3rOZQ08


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