Teamwork can be a beautiful thing. Even when a team of "all stars" haven't practised together much, sometimes instincts just kick in.
That was the case with the Hong Kong U-15 Futsal team, which won the junior category of the "Who Is the King" tournament in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, in February.
Their aim goes beyond the awards of one team; they also play an important role in the development of Hong Kong football.
Futsal is basically "five-a-side football", and matches are usually played indoors. It was one of the events of the tournament along with badminton and table tennis. The football event began in 60 cities of 31 provinces in China, and then regional competition was at eight sites in December.
"We were quite nervous at the first group game versus Hunan because we had only trained for a few times before heading to Hangzhou, so we didn't really know each other," recalls Yuen Sai-kit, 15, who ended up the team's top scorer, with eight goals in the Southeast Regional tournament.
"We fell behind at first, but we managed to readjust our tactics, and finally were able to fight back and win 4-2. Gradually camaraderie was building, and we beat the other two weaker opponents in our group."
The team beat Fujian 5-1 and Jiangxi 4-0 in the group stage, but Jiangxi recovered well enough to reach the final. Hong Kong won this 3-0 to qualify for the grand finals in Beijing.
"Honestly, compared with other provinces' teams, our youngsters were less skilful and had less stamina," says manager Tsang Wai-chung.
"But they were smarter and worked better as a team."
In Beijing, the Hong Kong U-15 boys qualified for the knock-out stage with victories over Chengdu, from Sichuan, and Guangdong and a loss to Zhejiang. They then beat Xinjiang 3-2 in the semi-finals to make it to the final, as representatives of the Southern Division. They played Hubei , the Northern Division champions, to a 1-1 draw and won the title in the penalty shootout.
"The regional success was to be expected, but the overall championship came as a bit of a surprise," Tsang says. "The tournament was broadcast by CCTV all over the country, so the boys' performance was watched by many people."
Winning the category championship has stoked the boys' dreams of pursuing football careers. But Futsal has gone beyond encouraging the players individually; it has lifted Hong Kong football as a whole.
Futsal is played on a pitch that can be as small as 25 by 15 metres to a maximum size of 42 by 25 metres, depending on who is playing. A match is played in 20-minute halves.
Futsal challenges a footballer in many ways. "Five-a-side has more variables, which makes it more fun," says defender Chu Wing-cho, 14, a Form Three student at Lee Wai Lee College. "Since the pitch is much smaller than the one for 11-a-side, players can 'use' the ball more; the attack and defence are also quicker."
Sai-kit, a Form Four student at Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School, adds: "Futsal requires you to have better skills, as possession is the key," adding that players who are not physically strong enough for 11-a-side can still enjoy the sport by playing Futsal.
Tsang, the former head coach of Hong Kong's national team, agrees the sport has many benefits: "Futsal can be played even on a basketball court. The participation rate in football would be higher if Futsal were promoted more.
"The 'golden period' for kids to develop football skills is between the ages of eight and 12, so we should also let youngsters under 14 play as much as they can. We have to create the conditions and increase the football population in Hong Kong.
"As a long-term member of HKFA [Hong Kong Football Association], Futsal is not my ultimate goal, but we can build on its growing popularity. I hope one day every club in the Hong Kong Premier League can send two Futsal teams to compete in a league from May to August.
"Together with inter-school competitions and promoting Futsal to girls, the general football population will rise. Then we can have a larger base to pick talented players from."