Hip and trendy are words commonly associated with inline hockey. No surprise then that 11-year-olds Jamie Erving and Chase Raffini are rapturous about the newest sport in town. The two youngsters are part of a growing band of children who make up the ESF Educational Services Ltd's Youth Inline Hockey League, which starts tomorrow. For 10 consecutive Tuesdays, five 'district' teams in two age groups, 8-10 years and 11-13, will meet at Bradbury School for an experiment in team sport bonding. Chief architect of the scheme Simon Joyce says if successful, it could fill a huge void in Hong Kong sport. 'The reason why Hong Kong is so backward in sports is that children do not grow up with sport from a young age. There is no grassroots development and organised leagues for young children,' said Joyce, head of the ESF Educational Services Ltd's physical education department. Joyce said that apart from the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's mini-rugby programme, he could not think of any other team sport which offered young children organised competition. Hence the plan to start the inline hockey league (a basketball league for 8-17 year-olds will also be conducted starting next Saturday at West Island School). For Erving and Raffini it is a dream come true. They both started roller-blading for the sheer fun of it. Now they can continue to indulge in their favourite pastime in real team competition. 'I play rugby too. But I spend most of my time on rollerskates and I'm really looking forward to the league,' said South Island School's Erving. Raffini, who attends the French International School, is equally effusive of a sport where the hockey stick is longer than he is. 'I like it a lot. I don't know anything about ice hockey or who the top players are but it is exciting,' says Raffini, taking time off from being tutored by Adrienne Ng, Hong Kong's only level three instructor. According to Tom Barnes, promoter and organiser of Hong Kong's ice hockey league, roller-hockey is an adaptation of the more popular and well-known ice hockey. 'In North America they started playing it during summer when the ice melted. Today it is one of the most trendy team sports around. It is hip and cool to play roller hockey,' says Barnes, who is giving his expertise willingly to promote the sport in town. Barnes has been involved in running a roller hockey programme at the Hong Kong International School for the past three years. And he is thrilled that an organised competition is finally off the ground. Instead of pitting school against school, it was decided that teams represent districts. 'There will be four teams from Hong Kong . . . South, East, West and Central and one team from Kowloon. The children will be put in the teams according to their place of residence,' said Joyce, an Australian who has become a keen fan of the sport. Although there are around 100 children in the programme, only 60 have signed up so far in the leagues - it costs $550 for players to register. 'It is a very nominal sum. The only thing they have to bring along are their skates. We provide the sticks and uniforms and also the goalie equipment,' said Joyce. Each team is made up of six players. Each game lasts 20 minutes, four quarters of five minutes. A hard plastic ball, sometimes filled with water to make it heavier, is smacked about with abandon although Canadian-Chinese coach Ng will beg to differ. The concrete-surfaced area need not be any bigger than a basketball court. Just ideal for Hong Kong conditions. 'The league is open for anyone to join. You don't have to attend an ESF school to play in it. It's an opportunity for young people from international and local schools to mix,' said Joyce. 'This is an opportunity for children to break away from their normal lifestyle of shopping or playing around with their computers,' he added. The league, which is being supported by CMG Asia, Fila and British Airways, will take place at Bradbury School. 'Inline hockey is so much more fun than mere roller skating. For one thing you go much faster and there is more manoeuvrability and feel to it. It will be very exciting,' says Erving, who is looking forward to the competition. At the moment it is all very basic, grassroots stuff, but Joyce is optimistic that the sport will catch on. 'As the competition grows we can soon have a match pitting Hong Kong versus Kowloon and then maybe a Hong Kong international team who can compete overseas. But that is probably five to 10 years down the line,' said Joyce. And for those of you wondering (as this writer did) why the sport is called inline hockey, it is because the wheels on the skate are all in line as opposed to normal skates. Young guns Erving and Raffini seemed perplexed that it was not common knowledge. To be in trend, wander down to Bradbury School, 4.15pm, tomorrow.