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"KICK START"in Hong Kong Tatler Magazine

"KICK START"in Hong Kong Tatler Magazine

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My first story in HK Tatler Magazine- about the Hong Kong team and this year's Homeless World Cup football tournament in Paris, France
My first story in HK Tatler Magazine- about the Hong Kong team and this year's Homeless World Cup football tournament in Paris, France

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Published by: Sunshine Lichauco de Leon on Oct 04, 2011
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10/04/2011

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hong kong tatler
1
october 2011 hong kong tatler
 2
october 2011
he eiffel tower
 looms large behindthem as the eight menrepresenting the HongKong ootball teamwalk onto the pitch atParis’ Champ de Marspublic park. Theirconfdence grows witheach step as the spectators cheer loudly rom thesidelines and the team readies itsel or its open-ing match. But all this excitement and attention isunamiliar to the tenacious competitors who havetravelled halway around the world to compete inthe Homeless World Cup (
hwc
) ootball tourna-ment. Indeed, it could hardly be more dierentrom their daily existence in Hong Kong, where lieon the street has made them eel almost invisible.For this team, kicking a ball around is morethan just sport. Each member, aged between 25and 40, is a recovering addict in treatment, andall have been living in shelters or institutions.Football has opened the door to a new world, onein which they have purpose and sel worth. It haschanged their lives by restoring their sel-esteem.“Everybody needs to wake up in the morningwith a goal,” says ormer France and ManchesterUnited striker Eric Cantona, the
hwc
global ambas-sador. “The Homeless World Cup brings this oppor-tunity – to go into training, to change your lie.”The annual Homeless World Cup is an interna-tional ootball tournament that brings togetherpeople who are homeless, marginally homeless,addicts in a rehabilitation programme or thosewho earn a living as vendors o street papers.Each participating country sends its own team,which plays rounds o our-a-side street soccerin a series o ast-paced, 14-minute matches. Thefrst tournament was held in Graz, Austria in 2003and brought together 18 teams. The latest edi-tion, held on August 21-28 and won by Scotland,attracted 600 players on 64 teams (including 16women’s teams) rom 53 countries.The goal o the
hwc
is to end homeless-ness by bringing international attention to thisworldwide issue and by empowering those who
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hong kong tatler
 3
october 2011
OnThclockwefromaboe
HongKongbattleitoutagainstKenya;HongKongplayersposeoraphotowiththeEstonianteam;Brazilianplayersshowoftheirskills;theEifelTowerprovidesagrandbackdroptothematches;cheeringonHongKong
with human rights
ngo
the Society or CommunityOrganisation, has been working with the home-less or more than a decade. His experience taughthim that helping people restore hope and regainconfdence was the best way to break out o thenegative cycle in which they are trapped. When heheard about the
hwc
, he knew it was the vehiclethat would make this possible or many people.“Ninety-eight per cent o homeless in Hong Kongare male,” says Ng. “Most o them lose hope. Weneed to rebuild that hope through the game. Inootball, they need to ace losing and winning. Butmost o all, they learn not to give up.”Luckily, businessman and ootball an AlexChan also believed in the
hwc
dream. When heread about Ng’s attempts to assemble a team, heimmediately oered to help undraise. Withinthree days there was enough money to send theteam to Edinburgh, Scotland, to compete in the2005 tournament and the Hong Kong team wasborn. A new team has been ormed each year, andHong Kong has participated in every cup since.The Hong Kong team is recruited through anannual selection tournament, where 12-16 teamsare invited rom social rehabilitation institutions.The chosen players attend weekly ootball practiceand training or three months, during which theybegin to develop the physical, mental and emo-tional qualities needed to be an eective player.Team manager Ho Wai-chi says, “Footballteaches them lie skills – discipline and per-sistence – and how to be brave in the ace o astrong enemy. And not to give up.” Players alsoattend a training camp, where the ocus is onteam building more than skills.Although the Hong Kong team ranked 40thand won just two matches out o 13 in Paris(against Sweden and Canada), the stats are o little importance. Ho says, “Since these playershave already experienced a lot o difcultiesin their lives, we don’t want to put them underunnecessary pressure. We just wantthem to enjoy the game.”Beore joining the team, Ying Ho was thebig boss o the gang with whom he lived. Knownor his hot temper, he lived a lie in which no onetold him what to do. During the tournament, hesurprised everyone with his change in attitude.When he came close to getting angry, he insteadthought about the consequences and calmeddown. Ho explains: “We are the only Chineseteam in the whole tournament. How could I yellat them? It would be an insult to the team and tothe badge we are wearing.”The realisation that the good o the team wasmore important than his own needs was a newexperience, and a good eeling. Team managerHo explains: “He eels a bit o sel-respect i hecan obey what the coach says and by listening to
 
live rough. So ar,the event has had aproound impact:studies suggest thatmore than 70 percent o the 100,000people involved sincethe project started have returned home to changetheir lives or the better. Regardless o whether thismeans coming o drugs and alcohol, securing a job,going back to school, fnding a home, or reunitingwith amily, a cycle o positive change has begun.Mel Young, president and co-ounder o the
hwc
says, “You have three wins when it comesto change. The players change beyond recogni-tion, and the people who come to watch us neverlook at homeless people the same way again. Themedia, too, as they oten represent the home-less as a problem, but now we are changing thestereotype and getting positive stories.”It was a belie in the possibilities this tourna-ment oered that allowed Hong Kong to join inthe fght to be heard. Ng Wai-tung, a co-ordinator
“People who come to watch us never look at homeless people the same way again” 

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