"My favourite position is to play as a striker. I like the buzz of charging down on goal after I receive the ball from a defender. I love the fun of team play,” Asher Lo, 9, said, beaming with the same excitement that he shows every time football pops into a conversation. Ever since his parents signed him up to children’s football training under the Jockey Club Community Football for Hope project, Asher has looked forward to taking to the pitch every week. Besides developing his football skills, he has learned how to work with his teammates – and take victory and defeat in the same stride.
The Jockey Club Community Football for Hope project believes in the transformative power of football. Over the past 10 years, the project has enjoyed a movie-like journey. It all started with a dream that street sleepers who were normally on their own could form a football team and compete overseas. In 2005, the dream came true when Hong Kong took part in the Homeless World Cup for the first time. After, supporters from different walks of life set up an organising committee that trains and selects members of socially deprived groups to participate in the annual Homeless World Cup. In 2013, a non-profit group, Street Football Hong Kong, was founded. Three years later, the group received funding support from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to launch the Jockey Club Community Football for Hope project.
The project gives former players in the Homeless World Cup a chance to continue their football journey, turning from service recipients to community givers.
Today, the project regularly organises community activities such as football fun days, football camps, and children's football training classes. It also invites social welfare organisations that serve marginalized communities to co-organise the Jockey Club Social Inclusion Cup, in the belief that football can bring people together and transform lives.
Today, Asher’s father accompanies his son to the football ground every week. He is happy that Hong Kong has developed a quality football training programme for local children. “It is hard work teaching kids. Sometimes the coach would have to repeat himself many times just to get a simple message across,” he said. “But I only see a great deal of patience and enthusiasm in every single coach that I’ve met.”
Did you know?
The Homeless World Cup is an annual sporting event organized by an international charity for the homeless. Drawing city-based teams from around the world, the tournament aims to improve the lives of the homeless and end poverty through football and sports more broadly. Since 2005, Hong Kong has been sending teams to compete in the tournament. In a 2018 survey of Homeless World Cup players from different countries, 94% said that the tournament had positively impacted their lives, while 83% felt it had improved their relationships with family and friends.