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Hong Kong's annual youth football development scheme has kicked off - and this year even more boys and girls can take part

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The four football ambassador for this summer's scheme (from left) Tong Kin-man, David Ngan, Chan Wing-sze and Chaka Chak.
The four football ambassador for this summer's scheme (from left) Tong Kin-man, David Ngan, Chan Wing-sze and Chaka Chak.
Photo: Nora Tam

It has been quiet a few years since footballers Tong Kin-man, David Ngan Lok-fung and Chan Wing-sze last took part in annual summer training run for teenagers. Yet the happy memories are still fresh in their minds.

This summer the three Hong Kong players have joined IVE (Tsing Yi) student Chaka Chak Ka-man as football ambassadors for the annual Jockey Club Youth Football Development Programme.

The Hong Kong Football Association has been running summer training for local youngsters for more than three decades; since 2012, the scheme has been funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

Previously, children had to be at least five to take part. But this year, the age range is from four to 17, to encourage more boys and girls to play. Also, unlike previous years, there will be no elimination of participants from the scheme, which runs to the end of August.

Tong, 29, who is a defender playing for first division club Sun Pegasus, says the new age reduction is a good idea.

"I participated in the scheme many times as a child," he says. "It was a perfect activity for my whole family in the summer. I remember my parents started out watching me play in matches during the scheme; those were my happiest moments during my childhood.

"Now the rule change means that a four-year-old child, who should [have started] kindergarten, can get involved in the sport even earlier. This is good for families, and for the development of football in Hong Kong."

Ngan, 21, a Kitchee midfielder who was playing on loan last season with another first division team, Royal Southern, says he is a big fan of the training scheme.

"I was training as part of the scheme with others my age in the Wong Tai Sin district for years," he says. "We all became close, so I was sad when I couldn't go along anymore. I was still young enough to take part, but it was because I had become a trainee with Kitchee," says Ngan, who is a member of Hong Kong's national squad.

Ngan, who is in Year One of his studies for a higher diploma in event management at Polytechnic University, adds: "The scheme helped me make a career in football. The coach of Kitchee saw me while I was playing in the scheme, so [I wouldn't be where I am] I'd not been part of the summer programme."

Chan, who captains Hong Kong's senior women's squad, also took part in the scheme for many years from the mid-1990s onwards. The 30-year-old, who plays in midfield for Citizen Eastern, says: "I met my team's coach, Chan Shuk-chi, while taking part in the scheme.

"I went to play for Shuk-chi with Kwai Tsing, then Citizen and the national squad.

"I think the summer scheme is great because it's encouraging more girls to learn the basics of football. Over the years it has helped local women's football to recruit many new players.

"Finding so many talented young players has made it possible recently for the association to run more national youth squads of different ages - something that did not exist when I was a teenager."

Chak, 19, who is proud to be the youngest ambassador, took part in last summer's scheme. The former Lions College student captained the girls' team to the 2011-12 All Hong Kong Secondary School Football title.

"Girls usually have less opportunity than boys to take part in football training," says Chak, who trains regularly with Chelsea Soccer School (Hong Kong).

"That's why my teammates and I have always taken part in the summer scheme - so we can keep playing football non-stop over the school holiday."

"Training always started at about 8am and lasted for an hour. But we would usually stay on afterwards. We'd keep playing for another two or three hours because we loved playing so much. We never felt tired at all."

The four ambassadors helped kick off registrations for this summer's scheme on Monday at Hong Kong Football Club.

If you were born between 1997 and 2010 you can take in this summer's football training scheme.
To register online, go to www.cityline.com
Go to http://www.hkfa.com to download an entry form

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
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