Charity fires soccer dreams

Charity fires soccer dreams

Italian club AC Milan and Hong Kong's Football for Life offer free coaching classes to the city's underprivileged youngsters

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Children from Christian Action and coaching staff at the AC Milan Soccer School.
Children from Christian Action and coaching staff at the AC Milan Soccer School.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP
Underprivileged children in Hong Kong can attend free football classes with one of the world's leading clubs, AC Milan, thanks to local charity Football for Life.

The Italian Serie A club offers youngsters, aged five to 17, weekly sessions at its AC Milan Soccer School in Hong Kong, in partnership with the charity, on Saturdays. "It's a wonderful opportunity for these children to have football instruction from a real AC Milan coach - learning football skills the AC Milan way," says Frenchman Philippe Bru, 47, who set up Football for Life in 2006.

"We also accept privileged children at the same time, but they need to pay the fees. But for the underprivileged kids, their participation is free of charge. They don't need to pay for the clothing, equipment or cost of the venue. All they need to do is to enjoy their time on the pitch."

Bru - a keen amateur player in Hong Kong's Yau Yee League and former restaurant manager at Hong Kong's Mandarin Oriental Hotel - set up the charity after playing a match with Hong Kong's national homeless football team. "I realised not enough was being done to help underprivileged people and that football could do a lot to help them," he says.

Hundreds of poor children have benefited over the years, thanks to the charity. AC Milan, which also runs football schools in Australia and Indonesia, was so impressed with Football for Life's work that last May it teamed up as the official partner in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong.

"We lacked sponsorship at the beginning, but after years of hard work, we have a number of companies supporting us and things are running smoothly now," Bru says. The charity now operates the AC Milan Soccer School in both Hong Kong and Macau and is looking to set up another school in Guangdong province. "With the experience we have gained in Hong Kong over the past few years, we are now working in Macau and Guangdong to let poor children experience AC Milan-style football," Bru says.

Elio Garavaglia, the AC Milan coach that led a class for children from Christian Action last week, says: "Every June, we have a tournament in Milan for players at AC Milan Soccer Schools all around the world. Hong Kong should be able to send a team next year. Anyone attending the classes will have a chance to represent Hong Kong."

Bru says Football for Life will pay all the expenses of any underprivileged children that are chosen. "We can always classify a kid whether he is privileged or not in society, but when they are on the pitch, everybody is equal - all kids should have a chance to play the sport. Even the world's top football stars were poor when they were children, but that didn't hinder their development in the sport."

The charity hopes government funding will help it find a regular weekly venue for classes and expand its programme.

Students can enrol for free courses through charities linked to Football for Life, or by submitting proof that they qualify for the lessons.

For details, go to www.acmilan.hk or www.footballforlife.org

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8 Comments

* lord_paulo

16:40pm

my name is name is Paul i am Cameroonian and i will love to play football but there is no one to sponsle me please i will like you to help me please help me this is my number please call me on 0023770116659

* lord_paulo

16:40pm

my name is name is Paul i am Cameroonian and i will love to play football but there is no one to sponsle me please i will like you to help me please help me this is my number please call me on 0023770116659