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Operation Santa Claus

Shooting and scoring for charity at 20th annual Operation Santa Claus five-a-side soccer tournament

A total of 42 teams competed at the Stanley Ho Sports Centre in Pok Fu Lam

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:19pm

The spirit of giving warmed as a wintry breeze blew across the pitch at the 20th annual Operation Santa Claus five-a-side charity soccer tournament.

Under the theme of “more goals for one goal”, the competition was held at the Stanley Ho Sports Centre in Pok Fu Lam last Sunday and attracted a total of 42 teams, in three age categories.

The tournament, co-organised by the Hong Kong Football Association, the Hong Kong Football Club and registered charity Friends of Asia Hong Kong, raised about HK$1 million for Operation Santa Claus, an annual charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Josephine Leung Wai-lin, the charity’s director of events and marketing, said the organisation shared a mutual goal with Operation Santa Claus.

“We both support programmes that can help the needy in our community,” she said.

The charity seeks to provide resources, care and opportunities for those in need by developing fundraising programmes centred around sports, health and education.

Being the charity partner of the tournament, Friends of Asia Hong Kong, through its affiliate Asian Foundation, matched the net amount of funds raised at the tournament.

“It’s our first year [in the charity football tournament]. We look forward to continuing to work hand in hand with Operation Santa Claus on projects concerning youth support or sports development,” Leung said.

Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) and Savills played a hard-fought final in the adult tournament, but HKFC side’s tight teamwork and strong defence helped them take home the cup in the end.

Mark Sutcliffe, chief executive of the Hong Kong Football Association, noted that participating teams had donated a considerable sum to enter the competition.

“That shows their generosity and spirit. They not only want to play football but also want to contribute to the charity as well,” he said.

Sutcliffe said he had been involved in raising money for Operation Santa Claus for a few years.

“Hopefully we can be more involved in the future,” he said.

Also at the event, 32 junior league teams showed their grit and skills on the football pitch.

Hong Kong City Boys beat the Hong Kong Football Academy on penalties in the under-nines tournament final.

Eight-year-old Jamieson Edrich Kao, whose team was awarded a runner-up trophy in the match, said: “I had great fun. I will play again next year.”

His fellow player Giovanni Di Salvo said they had been playing football for three years.

The winner of the under-12 tournament was FC Banterlona, who played against Eastern in the final.

Shaun Haskin, whose team finished runner-up, said the football tournament had a good meaning.

Hong Kong Football Club head coach Brendan McGraw, who helped organised the junior league, said players and their families and spectators all enjoyed the event.

“Everybody played in the right spirit,” he said.

Father Christmas added a festive touch by visiting the young children who came to see their families and friends play.

Berry Yeung Sin-yiu, who played Santa Claus, said he wanted to bring children an important message in this season of giving.

“We must preserve the traditional values as the world has become increasingly materialistic,” Yeung said.