Kitchee to get youth training centre
Kitchee's long-term vision of developing quality footballers took a giant step forward yesterday with the establishment of Hong Kong's first training facility dedicated mainly to youth.
Located in Shek Mun in Sha Tin district, the venue is expected to be completed in 18 months following a donation of HK$44 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.
'Ever since we set up FCB Escola [now called Kitchee Escola] four years ago, we have been dreaming of a facility like this,' said Ken Ng Kin, president of Kitchee. 'We have been in discussions with relevant government departments over the use of land over the past two years and now, with the financial support from the Jockey Club, we can put our ambitious plan into action.'
The Kitchee Escola programme provides training to boys aged from six to 12 under the guidance of two ex-Barcelona technical directors of youth development.
The new facility, on 15,000 square metres of land, will have a five-year lease, but Ng sees no reason why they can't keep the venue - which will be named the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre - beyond that period.
'That area is designated for recreational use, but at the moment the government has no plan to develop it,' he said. 'If we can run a good training centre and help the development of young players in Hong Kong, I don't think the government will take back the land after five years.'
According to the plan, the venue can accommodate four artificial turf grounds for seven-a-side football. The grounds can be converted to two competition pitches for public use or one standard-sized pitch for professional use. The centre will include a service block with facilities for changing rooms and offices.
The public will be able to use the facilities for about one-third of the time, with charges similar to other government facilities.
Ng said Kitchee would set aside HK$6 million a year for running the centre, half for their youth programmes and half for operating costs.
Douglas So, executive director of the Charities Trust, said the Jockey Club had been a staunch supporter of local soccer, especially youth development. The club is also funding a three-year development programme in conjunction with the Football Association, providing training to over 9,000 youngsters in all 18 districts in the city.
Kitchee, however, will still have to find HK$5 million for constructing the new facility as the Jockey Club will cover only 90 per cent of the cost. Kitchee hope they will get the HK$5 million from profit generated by their friendly against English Premier League side Arsenal at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29.
All tickets for the match have been sold but Kitchee are still waiting to hear if Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie will show up. 'If he is still an Arsenal player on match day, he has to come as he is one of the five marquee players named in the agreement between the two parties,' said Ng.
The Dutch international announced this week he would not renew his contract with the North London side, due to expire in 12 months. It is not known if the Gunners will now sell the Dutchman.