On and Off the Track: Eight Life-enriching Stories

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The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Put your best foot forward

The Hong Kong Jockey Club School Football Development Scheme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 July, 2016, 11:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 July, 2016, 11:32am

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Many people in the city are devoted football fans. They immerse themselves in major games, jumping for joy if their team wins, or feeling abject sorrow when the ‘wrong’ team comes out on top. But those close to the sport know we can all be winners when we play football.

A long-time supporter of local football development, The Hong Kong Jockey Club believes that team sports can help develop the physical, mental and social capabilities of young people. Over the years it has put in place appropriate programmes such as the JC Elite Youth Football Camp, the JC School Football Development Scheme, the JC Youth Football Leadership Scheme and the JC Youth Football Fitness Assessment – not to mention the JC Youth Football Development Scheme, of which the summer scheme is the largest such programme in Hong Kong.

In addition, the Club pledged a HK$120 million donation last year to support the Jockey Club HKFA 5-Year Football Development Programme with the aim of promoting football across the community. It has also supported the construction of the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre and the rebuilding of the Hong Kong Stadium.

Gabriel Wong, a participant in the JC School Football Development Scheme, improved his coaching skills and became an officially accredited coach with Manchester United Soccer Schools after joining the scheme.

Brought up in a less-than-privileged family, Wong played football in his childhood with a pair of basic white canvas footwear. “I enjoyed playing football so much that I once wore a hole in the sole of my right shoe, so I started learning to play with my left foot,” he recalls. Wong’s passion for football made him truly a “two-footed” player.

After becoming a Liberal Studies teacher, Wong took up the role of coach to his school’s football team. Later, he had a chance to join the JC School Football Development Scheme.

The Club’s collaboration with Manchester United, one of the most popular football clubs in the world, dates back to 2012.  Together they aim to further develop the sport in Hong Kong, while offering young people an opportunity to achieve their full potential through playing the game.

As part of this partnership, coaches from Manchester United Soccer School have come to Hong Kong to help train the teams and sports teachers of more than 40 schools participating in the JC School Football Development Scheme. Wong, an outstanding achiever of this scheme, is now applying what he’s learned in other programmes. It’s the Club’s hope that football can inspire the teachers as well as the students to discover their talents.

Perhaps the biggest thrill of all for many participants has been the visits to Hong Kong by more than 10 former Manchester United football stars including Bryan Robson, Phil Neville, Peter Schmeichel and Ronny Johnsen, who have all paid an active role in the school coaching classes.

“The Jockey Club offers resources matching the development needs of the school,” says Wong, praising the Club’s undertaking in the programme. “[The involvement of] Manchester United has opened the eyes and minds of students, who can learn from this football giant how passion and the system can change the world for the better.”

“The proper training offered by the coach is more than football skills,” says one of Wong’s students. “It improves communication between team members and it teaches us to better manage our time.”

The Club recently renewed its collaboration with Manchester United. It is expected that more people like Wong and his students will benefit from this youth development programme.