Ten outstanding young Hong Kong footballers have earned a trip to the world-renowned Manchester United training grounds in Britain in August.
Savio Chan Chun-yuen, Jenny Lai Yuk-ying, Kaka So Ka-sin, Chris Choi Yat, Jason Lee Ka-yuen and Alvin Lo Wing-ho have been chosen as the 2017 Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) Youth Football Leadership Scheme’s six “Outstanding Young Leaders”, while Katie Cheng Tsz-ting, Ng Yeuk-ching, Leo Mak Yin-kan and Wong Ching-tak were selected as the top performers at the HKJC Soccer 4 Elite Youth Clinic.
The winners, seven boys and three girls aged between 11 and 19 years old, were presented with a programme graduation certificate and giant passports on Saturday. Over the course of the one-week trip, they will participate in local community football activities, visit the United training base, and watch a Premier League football match.
“We chose those who [we felt best] represent the Manchester United philosophy, which is working from technical to social,” said Manchester United Soccer Schools Hong Kong head coach Christopher O’Brien. “We have not chosen individuals; we have chosen a team. This is what football is about.”
Savio, 18, from La Salle College, was greeted by huge cheers from his teammates after his name was called. “I’m going to Manchester on a mission to represent Hong Kong,” he said, adding that he hopes to develop as both a player and a person while there.
The Form 6 student has just finished his DSEs and had to work his socks off to succeed in both his exams and the programme. “[I only started playing] during Form 4, and I don’t have as much experience as others do in the programme. I faced difficulties at first, especially when they started talking about representing clubs or districts,” explained Savio.
The difficulties subsided after a while though, and the confident teen was soon able to show his true self. “My communication skills helped, whether we were doing workshops or playing on the pitch. I could express my views and listen to teammates too. That was key to becoming a leader.”
And leader he became; Savio won the programme’s coveted “Leader of Leaders” – winning a pair of signed boxing gloves from Hong Kong hero Rex Tso Sing-yu – and even gained recognition from the coach. “Savio was our overall captain. He represented technical, tactical, physical, mental and social at the highest level. He’ll be great to lead the team in Manchester,” said O’Brien.
Although Savio treats his upcoming Manchester trip with the utmost professionalism, he does have one personal wish. “I’d love to be able to bump into [Manchester United coach] Jose Mourinho while I’m there, and just have a chat with him,” he said.
Katie, 11, who goes to Hong Kong Baptist University Affiliated School Wong Kam Fai Secondary and Primary School, was the youngest footballer to win a ticket to Manchester, and is already getting into preparation mode. “I’ll practice with my school coaches to improve my stamina,” she said.
The Kowloon district representative caught the eye of coaches and her teammates after she was able to comfortably keep up with the older players. “I’m the best in defence because I can easily read the game, control my teammates, and prevent attacks,” said Katie, who says she looks up to Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Savio and Katie, along with all the programme graduates, were lucky enough to hear some encouraging words from former Hong Kong cyclist Jamie Wong wan-yiu. The “Iron Woman” won a silver medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games – but that’s not the most impressive thing she accomplished there.
Around the halfway point of her [track point race], Wong – in fourth place at the time – collided with a competitor, fell off her bike, and was hit by trailing bikes. However, she picked herself up and fought through the pain to finish an astonishing second.
“It doesn’t mean it’s over if you fall. Get to the finish line. How do you know if you’ll succeed or not, if you don’t at least try to do that?” said Wong. She ended with a strong message for Hong Kong’s next generation of footballers: “Set short term targets, then gradually go bigger. And believe in it. Failure is a part of life, but I think belief beats everything.”
Good luck to all ten of our footballers as they prepare for an unforgettable trip to Manchester!