SOTY 2015: Jockey Club chief talks to YP about life and winning

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges says every young person has the ability to shine - it's a matter of finding the right direction

Susan Ramsay |

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Put your best foot forward! Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges welcomes another hopeful to the JC Youth Football Development Programme.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) is the title sponsor of the Student of the Year competition. Young Post Editor Susan Ramsay spoke to HKJC's Chief Executive Officer, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, about why they are so passionate about youth, and what we can learn from his personal career path.

Young Post: The Jockey Club is involved in a broad range of social activities. Which one is your favourite and why?

Engelbrecht-Bresges: I can't say I have a favourite, because, as you say, the club is involved in many different community activities, and all of them are important. But I'm really excited about our JC Youth Football Development Programme. Working with Manchester United and the Hong Kong Football Association, we've given youngsters the chance to receive international-class football training.

This is not just about improving football skills. It's mainly about using football to improve all-round well-being - physical, mental and social.

I speak from experience. When I was young, I was passionate about football. But looking back, what football really taught me was self-discipline and self-belief. I learned how to be a good leader and also how to be a good team player. Those qualities, I think, are really important for every young person growing up in Hong Kong today. That's why I'd encourage every young person to sign up for one of our football programmes.

Equally, I know there is a lot of talent among our young people. But sometimes, it's hard to find the right direction for your talent. The club has just launched a HK$500 million programme - Clap for Youth @ JC - designed to help young people map out their career and life goals. The idea is to help every young person in Hong Kong achieve their potential. After all, not everyone can be a business leader or a celebrity, but I firmly believe every young person has the ability to shine.

YP: What is it that gets you excited about Student of the Year?

EB: Without a doubt it's the chance to meet the amazingly talented students who take part in this competition. Only the very best can win through to the finals, but behind them, I know there are many, many outstanding young people who have a great future ahead of them.

I'm particularly pleased that the awards recognise the diversity of talent in our schools. We have young people who are outstanding in the arts and sciences, in languages and in sport. We also recognise students who have made a contribution to their community.

Personally I think it's very important to develop this habit of engaging with the community when you are young, so I'm very pleased there is a special category for Community Contributor in the Student of the Year Awards. It's a great encouragement for young people.

YP: What one quality do you think makes someone Hong Kong's student of the year?

EB: I would say it's being totally focused on excellence, and having the passion to constantly achieve that level of excellence. This requires real courage, both to set a high standard for yourself and to cope with the obstacles you face along the way. But truly top students have the strength of character to learn from their setbacks and to constantly drive themselves forward.

When it comes to the overall Student of the Year, I'm looking for the same passion for excellence. Someone who has not only the drive but also the imagination and the integrity to become a leader of the community - who can help take Hong Kong forward in 20 or 30 years' time.

YP: What did you want to be when you left school?

EB: I have two passions in my life - horses and football. As a youngster, I was actually quite good at football. I even played professionally for a while before I graduated from university in Germany. But in the end it was my love of horses that was the basis for my career. So even though I got offers to work for some big insurance companies, I decided to follow my passion and get involved in racing management.

Looking back, I think I made the right choice to build on my love for horses and racing management to develop my own career.

YP: What would you say to your 16-year-old self about making important career choices?

EB: I would say analyse thoroughly who you are and what you want from your life and career. Sometimes you can't always pursue your dream career. But often there are other alternatives where you can develop your interests, as I found out with racing management. It's just a question of being a little flexible and finding what's right for you.

Hong Kong has that can-do spirit. It's extremely competitive. But I like it, because in a way you can achieve things.