A lot happened during the Standard Chartered International Youth Tournament 2018, which took place on April 5 – a day before the Sevens started – at King’s Park in Ho Man Tin.
There, Hong Kong’s future Sevens stars got to showcase their skills, representing the city’s top youth clubs – including the USRC Tigers, HKU Sandy Bay, Flying Kukris and Sai Kung Stingrays – at the event.
Teams from underprivileged communities in the United States, South Africa, and Thailand, were also present.
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The South African squad Cool Play got the opportunity to come to Hong Kong thanks to generous funding from the global sports charity Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
“A trip like this is, to be honest, a beyond-life-changing experience for many of our boys,” explained Cool Play board member Denis Handley.
“You have children here who don’t have fathers, children who don’t have a flushing toilet, or a working shower in their house, things that you and I completely take for granted.
“They don’t have their own bedrooms, they share a room with five or six people. There might be three generations of a family living inside a single room. So to take them and fly them halfway across the world into this kind of environment, is simply incredible. And we’re hoping they’ll go back as ambassadors who will be able to help their communities.”
For Cool Play’s captain Bradwin Louis, it was the first time he and all his teammates, had flown on an aeroplane.
“It was so cool, the take off, the landing, and we even got to stop off at Dubai,” said the 17-year-old. “It’s been amazing playing against boys from different countries, making lots of new friends, and I’m still looking forward to doing more stuff while I’m here.”
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Bradwin said the impact Cool Play has had on his life has been indescribable. “I used to be a shy boy; but after I met Cool Play they helped build me up, up, up,” he said. “They give me self-confidence and that’s why I can talk.
“A few years ago I wouldn’t even be able to do this interview, but my coaches taught me how to communicate, and taught me so many valuable life lessons.”
Laureus Sport for Good operates in 35 countries supporting more than 100 sports charity programmes around the world, including Operation Breakthrough in Hong Kong, a charity that focuses on introducing sports to disadvantaged teenagers and first time offenders. They also helped bring American squad ICEF to the tournament from deprived communities in Los Angeles.
“Rugby and ICEF have given me lots of opportunities,” said ICEF player Kendrick Burnside. “I got to visit the Philippines and now Hong Kong. I love the sport, the support and love I got from my coaches and it’s given me direction in life.”
Kendrick said he hopes to one day play rugby for the prestigious University of California, Berkley.
It was the local teams, though, that ultimately took glory on the day. USRC Tigers took home the U14 crown, the Sai Kung Stingrays won the U16s, and HKU Sandy Bay/Flying Kukris took home the U19 title after a thrilling final against the Tigers.
It’s safe to say the future of rugby is in good hands.