Tuesday, 22 October 2013

It’s time to develop a High Performance Football Culture in Hong Kong 發展本港高效足球文化的合適時機

It’s time to develop a High Performance Football Culture in Hong Kong


Introduction
 
Since our defeat to UAE last week, I have been reflecting on why we were beaten and what we need to do to give our players a better chance to compete. I keep coming back to the same conclusions that I did when I wrote the Project Phoenix report. There are some fundamental long term developmental issues that were identified in the report and that we are now addressing including:
 
  • We don’t have a ‘national’ playing style or system that is taught systematically from the grassroots level all the way through to elite players.

  • Youth development is not coordinated across Hong Kong

  • Football in schools is limited

  • There is no real ‘scouting’ or talent identification system

  • Youth leagues are homogenous and based on the lowest common denominator – in other words there is no opportunity for the ‘best to play with the best’ 

  • The quality of coaching is variable and coaches do their own thing rather than following a National Curriculum

  • Professional Clubs (with one or two exceptions) place very low emphasis on player academies

  • Players do not get enough opportunity to play football as a result of insufficient facilities and a focus on academic attainment
As expected, it is taking time to address these fundamental issues but all of them are being worked on now that we have a functional Technical Department and bigger Secretariat. A Hong Kong system of play is being developed which is set out in a new National Curriculum which will be launched in the near future. Change management is never easy because there are always pockets of resistance to overcome, general inertia and the realignment of processes and budgets. These new and revised football development activities and programmes will eventually produce better footballers for our representative teams but we can’t afford to wait for the changes we are making to the infrastructure and player pathways to come to fruition. We need to give our current and emerging elite athletes more help and support now.
 
It is commonly accepted that to become world class in an activity, a person should have had the opportunity for 10,000 hours of ‘deep’, quality, purposeful practice by the time they are 18 years of age. Aspiring footballers in Hong Kong currently reach 10,000 hours by the time they are 40, by which time their aspirations have of course expired or become sad delusions! The fact is that by the time our players are ready to pull on the Hong Kong senior jersey they are probably about 5,000 hours behind players in other countries through no fault of their own and yet we expect them to be competitive.
 
Even when young players reach the top and are selected to play for Hong Kong, the system fails them and we have to rely on their fighting spirit and Coach KIM’s passion. We do not have the resources to develop a ‘High Performance’ culture.
 
The most important deficiencies are money, facilities and support services.
 
Funding

Looking at the issue of money first, football is not part of the Hong Kong Elite Sports programme funded by the Government and operated through the Hong Kong Sports Institute. The reason for this is that the criteria for gaining elite sports status are based on the attainment of medals in international competition. The problem for football is that without the investment that is given to elite sports, it is unlikely to ever gain that level of performance, it is a chicken and egg scenario. It should also be recognized that football is played in just about every country in the world whereas some of the current elite sports are not universal and it is therefore easier for them to achieve success. For Hong Kong to win medals in football regional competitions we will have to beat world powerhouses such as Australia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, UAE, China and Korea Republic. To compound matters further, it is more difficult to achieve medals in team sports than individual sports. For example in a major games e.g. Olympics there are 34 different swimming events with 102 medals available whereas in football there are two events (men’s and women’s) and therefore 6 medals in total. Taking these factors into account, the chance of football gaining elite sport status is very small, if not impossible.
 

In reality, it would be difficult for senior football players to be based full time at the HKSI because as a ‘professional’ sport, senior players train with their Clubs. It would however be possible for them to have access to some of the facilities and support and/or for some of our young players (men and women) to train there from time to time. At least there should be some parity in terms of the funding and support given to our elite ‘athletes’. The HKFA would also welcome a partnership with the HKSI involving the sharing of expertise, resources etc, especially when (if) the Football Training Centre is finally built. To put the funding of elite ‘athletes’ in some sort of context, there are 719 ‘athletes’ (if you include the 12 sports under the Individual Athlete Support Scheme) funded by the HKSI at an annual cost of HK$325m. This equates to HK$452,017 per athlete per annum. Each Olympic athlete competing for Hong Kong in London 2012 apparently cost HK$8.9m over 4 years (i.e. HK$2.225m per athlete per annum), because as you would expect the cost of preparing full time Olympic athletes is higher than the average. By contrast, in 2013, the HKFA Government subvention for the Hong Kong Football Association Representative Teams was HK$4.617m. There are circa 288 elite athletes (12 squads x 24 people) in the Hong Kong football ‘high performance’ system. That equates to HK$16,031 per person per annum which is 3.5% of the money spent on each HKSI athlete and 0.7% of the total spent on each Olympic athlete respectively. Even at the lower end of spend per athlete, if the HKFA elite teams’ members were to receive a comparable amount, the HKFA would have a high performance budget of HK$130m instead of under HK$5m. The comparative funding of elite athletes in Hong Kong is shown below.



The fact that football is not seen as an elite sport is hugely detrimental because it is starved of the resources it needs to improve and to compete. Yet football is the most popular and high profile participant sport in both Hong Kong and the world and our elite players are expected to compete equally with footballers from other countries in high profile matches televised across the globe.

Facilities

It was stated above that there are insufficient accessible and good quality football facilities in Hong Kong and that this hinders grassroots and youth development activities and programmes. This means that our young players will always struggle to get 10,000 hours contact time with the ball by the time they are 18. At the elite level the situation is even worse, there are no dedicated elite football facilities. When I first came to Hong Kong in 2009 to work on the Government’s strategy ‘Dare to Dream’ I was shown plans drawn up in 2003 for a National Football Training Centre at Tseung Kwan O. Of course developing this facility was a key recommendation of that strategy and then again a key recommendation of Project Phoenix. It’s almost 2014 now and we are still at the ‘planning’ stage. Meanwhile our senior team has to train for international competitions on over-used public pitches across Hong Kong. It might be a synthetic pitch one week and a grass pitch the next. Some weeks we don’t train at all because there are no facilities available. It is difficult to imagine this ‘nomadic’ and ad hoc approach being acceptable in any other country that is serious about football. No disrespect to Guam, but even they have a training centre! I’ve been there, it’s great and I’m very envious – more to the point, so are our players and coaches. If we had a dedicated training centre and/or the resources to organize proper training camps before important matches, we would have the right to expect positive results. We don’t and we shouldn’t.  
 
Support for Elite Footballers

In terms of sports science support footballers are again massively disadvantaged compared to elite athletes based at the HKSI and elite footballers in other countries. I have been to the multi-billion dollar HKSI and it is fantastic with new state of the art sports science support services as well as accommodation, classrooms, rehabilitation facilities and access to high level professional expertise. Literally no expense is spared to develop the HKSI elite athletes, which is how it should be. I have no problem with the resources invested in the HKSI and its elite athletes, indeed I am an advocate of the approach to high performance taken at the HKSI and a firm believer in leaving no stone unturned in fostering excellence in sport. That is what we so desperately need in football but the problem is that the HKFA has no money to provide even the most basic support. We have no sports science support (physiology, psychology, bio-mechanics, nutrition etc), no gym, no conditioning coach, no analysis software etc etc because we can’t afford them. It does seem a bit paradoxical that some sports have optimal resources and others including football have virtually none.  

Solutions

The HKFA is just about to launch a new 5-year Strategic Plan called Aiming High – Together which builds on Project Phoenix and sets out what needs to change if football in Hong Kong is going to prosper once again. It addresses all of the areas of concern from the grassroots up and includes a chapter on ‘high performance’ football. The strategic plan proposes solutions to all of the issues raised in the introduction to this blog.
 
In terms of facilities, this is actually a difficult issue to address because there are simply too few facilities in Hong Kong to cater for the demand. I sympathize with the Government – it has an impossible job trying to cater for everyone. So rather than trying to do so, maybe it is time to prioritize access and change the current quota system and allocation policy. The further ‘roll-out’ of the conversion of grass pitches to synthetic pitches will help. The real ‘game-changer’ would be the development of the Football Training Centre at Tseung Kwan O. That has to be the number one priority for everyone involved in football and surely can’t be too difficult to bring to fruition. 
 
Of course that will require the allocation of resources but to me that is the easy part for a place like Hong Kong – it just requires the commitment of funding partners and the buy-in to the vision set out in the Strategic Plan. We are just looking for some parity with the other elite sports in Hong Kong. Hong Kong football teams already compete in international competitions (albeit with their hands tied behind their back metaphorically speaking) e.g. National Games of China, East Asian Games, Asian Games, Asian Cup, Olympics and World Cup. We have to prepare properly for these high profile events where being elite is a prerequisite. It is patently absurd that football in Hong Kong is categorized as ‘non-elite’? The pride of the nation is at stake.
 
I hear some people saying ‘where will the money come from and why should football get it’? Well in terms of where, here are some ideas:
 
  • Use some of the interest made on the Elite Athletes Development Fund set up by the Government and used to fund existing ‘elite’ sports

  • Establish a new fund linked to the existing football betting licence*

  • Consider allowing betting on Hong Kong football and establishing a new endowment fund specifically for football development including high performance

  • Reduce the stadia ‘levy’ from its current 20% of gross ticket sales to (say) 10%.


*An annual surplus of circa HK$20billion is generated from football betting in Hong Kong. The HKFA receives an amount equivalent to 0.17% of this in the form of Government grants and charitable sponsorship (which is similar in scale to a one year old child stood next to the ICC building). If this was increased to half of one percent (circa HK$100m) it would still be a drop in the ocean but it would literally transform the sport. The slice of the ‘football betting pie’ given to the HKFA is illustrated below – you will have to look closely though.
 Why should football be given more money? I can’t think of any other sport in Hong Kong that generates a surplus of HK$20billion a year. It might come from betting and from betting on foreign football but it is still money derived from people in Hong Kong and it wouldn’t exist without football. Furthermore football generates significant economic multipliers from major events such as the Barclays Asia Trophy. It is the most popular participation and spectator sport in Hong Kong and as such it contributes to health and well-being, community cohesion, and pride of place. It is easy to construct a case for investment in football - there are social, economic and cultural benefits on a scale much bigger than other sports and pastimes. 

Of course there is an onus on the HKFA to generate more commercial revenue and we are trying to do that. It is difficult however to get the corporates to invest when football is starting from such a low base. Some public sector or charitable funding is needed to pump prime football in Hong Kong. Project Phoenix money helps and we are grateful for it but in terms of major change, we are still scratching the surface. We are really trying hard to improve things and I believe we are making progress. We have established the criteria for the Premier League starting in 2014/15, we are working with two of our Clubs on an Extraordinary Application to gain entry into the 2014 AFC Champions League, we are introducing new age groups into our youth development programmes, we have enhanced the governance, management and operation of the HKFA, we have recruited a team of skilled and enthusiastic football professionals and we have prepared an ambitious strategy to develop grassroots football, youth development, high performance football, futsal, women’s football, refereeing, coaching and coach education etc.

However our plans will not have the impact that they should and could have unless we get more money into the sport. We have reached a tipping point. Together with our partners and football stakeholders, it really is time to take stock of the situation, to decide how important football is to individuals, to communities and to Hong Kong society as a whole and to give it the help it so desperately needs. If we do not get better facilities and a level of resources comparable to other sports we will not be able to develop a ‘high performance’ culture (or fulfill our other plans) and we will simply fall further and further behind other countries. I do not think that is what the football-mad Hong Kong people want – please correct me if I’m wrong.

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發展本港高效足球文化的合適時機



 引言


 
自從上週我們不敵於阿聯酋後,本人曾反覆思考香港代表隊落敗的原因及我們如何幫助球員爭取更佳的競爭機會,所得出的結論與早前本人所撰寫的《鳳凰計劃》同出一轍,該份報告曾提及一些基本的長遠發展項目,現在不妨藉此重溫以下數點:
 
  • 本地各地區的青少年足球發展項目未能妥善相連;

  • 足球於學校層面的發展有限;

  • 沒有一套真正的「球探」或發掘具足球天賦球員的識別機制;

  • 本地青年聯賽皆以一個最低的門檻招生及有一個共同特點—「均質化」,換句話說,「最強與最強練習」的機會渺茫; 

  • 球員訓練質素因人而異,某些教練喜歡以自己的方式執教,未必遵循原有的課程指引;

  • 專業球會(一至兩間除外) 將青訓的考量放至較低位置;

  • 沒有足夠的設施及學業為先的想法令球員沒有獲得足夠的踢足球機會。
 
以上所言,各個項目必須經過一段時間才能開花結果。在足總技術部及秘書處的全面配合下,所有項目正在火速展開。香港將會在不久將來推出一套屬於香港足球的課程指引,並會建立一套自己的比賽風格。改變管理模式從來並不容易,皆因在改變過程中會遇上不少阻力,例如慣性模式或抗拒重新編制之程序及預算。新編制的足球發展項目將會有利於孕育更多優秀足球員代表香港隊,然而我們不能忍受漫長的等待,必須為基建及球員開闢捷徑以盡快享受成果,現在我們必須為現時的精英運動員給予更多的幫助與支援。
 
眾所周知,要在某個項目上成為世界級人物,他必須在十八歲的年紀時能夠達成一萬個小時的深層次、高質素和針對性練習的目標,本港一些有抱負的足球員會在他們年近四十時達成一萬個小時的目標,可惜為時已晚,其足球生涯正接近尾聲,一腔熱情亦已消耗殆盡。事實上,相對其他國家而言,本地球員在穿上港隊球衣時或已達成五千小時的練習量,我們不能嚴加苛求,但實際上我們希望他們做得更好,更具競爭力!
 
當青年球員能夠被提拔入選香港代表隊,單靠他們的拼勁精神和金判坤教練的滿腔熱情,最終或會淪為泡影!我們沒有足夠資源來發展「高效」文化。
 
上述不足之處的重點是:缺乏金錢、設施以及支援服務
 
 
贊助
 
 
首先來關注金錢的問題,由香港特區政府贊助、香港體育學院營運的「香港精英運動項目」,現時足球運動並未成功歸納其中。究其原因,最大考量是建基於該運動項目能夠在國際賽事中成功獲得獎牌數目的多寡而定,但問題出現了,足球運動在缺乏足夠的投資下,始終難以搖身變成精英運動項目,自然難以在高水平的比賽中獲得滿意成績,這是雞與蛋的道理。足球魅力風靡全球,而某些精英運動則未必每個地方皆會重視,因此他們比較容易取得成功。在香港而言,足球運動要在國際賽事中取得獎牌,我們必須先擊敗如澳洲、伊朗、日本、約旦、阿聯酋、中國及韓國等列強。進一步延伸,團體運動項目始終較個人比賽更難奪標,以奧運會游泳比賽項目為例,它將會在三十四個單項上產生一百零二百獎牌,至於足球則涉及兩個項目(男子和女子),即僅有六面獎牌誕生。
 
若將這些因素一併考慮在內,足球能成為精英運動項目的機率可謂微乎其微。
 
 
 
現實生活中,我們很難要求本地職業足球員全天候「紮根」在香港體育學院中,因為作為一項「專業」運動,球員皆會在所屬球會操練,然而他們亦可以接觸該學院的部分設施及支援,以及/或我們的年青球員(男女子)偶爾在那裡接受訓練,這裡至少能夠獲得部份的財政援助給予我們的精英「運動員」。香港足球總會歡迎與香港體育學院緊密合作,特別當足球訓練中心成功落成後,互相分享不同的專業知識、資源等等。在投放在精英運動員的資助上,由香港體育學院資助的運動員數目達七百一十九人(包含在個別運動支援計劃的十二項運動中),涉及每年金額達港幣三億二千五百萬元,以每年計平均每一位運動員獲得港幣四十五萬二千零十七元。為出戰二零一二年倫敦奧運會,在四年間耗資了港幣八百九十萬元在每一位香港代表隊成員身上 (每年度每位運動員約為港幣二百二十二萬五千元),皆因全職備戰奧運的會較參加一般比賽的運動員開支為大。相反,在二零一三年度中,香港足球總會代表隊獲得由香港特區政府資助的金額為港幣四百六十一萬七千元,當中涉及香港足球「高效」系統下的二百八十八名精英運動員(十二支球隊陣容 x 二十四人),平均每年每人獲港幣一萬六千零三十一元資助,分別為每名體院運動員所資助金額的百分之三點五和每名奧運香港代表隊成員所資助金額的百分之零點七。假若香港足球總會的精英隊員能夠獲得較為接近的金額,我們理應獲得港幣一億三千萬元而非低於港幣五百萬元下作為高效預算方季。目前香港各類型精英運動員的資助金額,如下圖所示:
 
 
 
事實反映本地足球並未視之為精英運動項目將會產生不良影響,因為我們渴求資源以進一步改善球隊的競爭力,在香港以至世界任何一個角落中,足球都是一項廣受歡迎及高參與率的運動,香港精英球員都想與其他國家的選手們,在全球觸目的國際舞台上在同一水平上公平競技。
 
設施
 
 
 
根據上述資料顯示,本港缺乏一些交通方便及高質素的足球設施,從而阻礙青少年足球培訓項目的發展,同時本地青少年球員亦很難在其十八歲時已達成一萬個小時的訓練目標。在精英運動員的層面上,設施問題更趨嚴重,因本港沒有一個指定的精英足球基地。二零零九年,本人首次參與香港特區政府的《敢於夢想》策略報告時,已獲悉二零零三年在將軍澳興建足球訓練中心的計劃,當然發展此項設施是該份策略鼓告以及「鳳凰計劃」的其中一項重點建議。二零一四年快將來臨,目前我們仍停留在「計劃」階段,然而香港代表隊為備戰各項國際賽事而需過度徵用本港各個公共場地,本周或在彷真草地舉行,下周又或安排在真草場地訓練,又或數周內因沒找到合適場地而取消一切操練,難以想像這種「遊牧」及即興方式會在其他國家中容許執行。本人重申對關島沒有不敬之意,但他們亦有屬於自己的訓練中心!我曾踏足當地,其設施完善令人嫉妒,包括本人、我們的隊員及教練在內。如果我們擁有自己的訓練中心及/或相關資源,便可以在一些重要賽事來臨前安排適合的訓練營,從而讓球隊有權利獲得理想戰績,但目前卻事與願違!
 
 
 
 精英足球員的支援
 
 
 
相對香港體育學院的精英運動員以及其他國家的精英足球員,本地球員獲得運動科學的支援可謂乏善足陳!本人曾造訪耗資數以億元興建的香港體育學院,內裡提供多元化的運動科學支援服務以及運動員宿舍、課室、復康設施以及各項預尖的專門知識。字點行間沒有表明任何開支預留在發展香港體育學院的精英運動員上,本人絕不反對將資源投放在香港體育學院以及其精英運動員上,反而提倡我們應仿傚香港體育學院的做法以發展「高效」方針,堅定不移地培育優秀的體育人才,恰恰是足球運動所需要的。然而,最大難題是香港足球總會缺乏資金來提供更多基本支援,如沒有運動科學支援(體能、心理、生命力學、營養學等等)、沒有健身器材、沒有適體能教練、沒有分析數據等等,全因足總無力承擔所需費用。某些運動擁有足夠的優化資源而其他項目(包括足球)則嚴重貧乏,實在有點自相矛盾!
 
 
 
解決方案
 
 
 
建基於「鳳凰計劃」,香港足球總會即將發布一個全新的五年策略報告書,中文名暫譯為《力爭上游—萬眾一心》,主要針對如何為香港足球事業作出改變以圖再次邁向輝煌。報告書中將顧及各個範疇領域的關注,包括由草根足球開始以至包括獨立篇章提及的「高效」足球。今次由博客作為引子,而計劃書將會全盤剖析所有項目的解決方案的建議。
 
 
 
在「設施」層面上,是一個難以解決的議題,因為香港確實在設施配套上有嚴重供不應求的情況,這點本人十分同情香港特區政府,因為實在難以滿足每一個人的訴求。與其一意孤行,或者可以考慮將現有資源排序,以及改變目前的配額及分配制度,繼而將真草場地逐步改變為仿真草場地亦有一定幫助。真正的「賽局改變者」必屬發展中的將軍澳足球訓練中心,在每一位足球從業員的心中都會將其放在首選位置,擁有它就有機會取得豐碩成果!
 
 
 
誠然,資源分配談何容易,惟對本人而言,在香港有效地執行亦並非難事—只需各贊助夥伴在計劃報告中提及的未來願景作出共同承諾,同時亦會尋求與其他本港精英運動項目的同等待遇,香港足球代表隊已經在各項國際賽事中先後登場(儘管他們束手束腳以作比喻),例如中國全運會、東亞運動會、亞洲盃、奧運及世界盃賽事等,我們已為各項高水準賽事準備就緒,而當中不乏精英球員。有些公開的謬論認為香港足球已被標籤化為「非精英」?香港的驕傲已瀕臨危險邊緣。
 
 
 
本人曾聽聞一些人質疑「金錢從何處來?」以及「為何花費在足球上?」以下是一些意見:
  • 由政府設立精英運動員發展基金,繼續投放在現有的「精英」運動上。

  • 建立一個新基金, 並與現時本地足球賭博牌照*掛鉤。

  • 考慮容許本地足球賭博事業及成立一個全新的捐贈基金,特別是支持足球發展包括「高  效」  足球。

  • 降低球場的徵稅稅率,由現時的門票收益的百分之二十降為百分之十。
 
*本地足球賭博業的年度盈餘為港幣二百億元,香港足球總會收到政府撥出當中金額相等於0.17%的收益以及其他慈善機構的贊助(情況猶如一歲小孩站立在環球貿易廣場相似)。 若能夠增加至百分之一的一半(約港幣一億元),雖如海洋中的小水滴,但足以將運動事業作翻天覆地的改變。 有關足總能夠獲分一片「足球賭博事業的大餅」,請看以下插圖。
 
 
 
為甚麼足球事業需要獲得更多金錢資助?我難以找到有其他本地運動事業足以產生每年有港幣二百億元的盈餘,雖然來自投注收益甚至來自投注在外國足球比賽,但投注金額都是來自香港市民身上。再者,足球能夠營造顯著的經濟效益,例如巴克萊亞洲錦標賽已是成功案例,這是一項廣受觀眾及球迷歡迎的本地運動活動,同時帶來一個健全、社會凝聚力及城市品牌效應,將會為足球事業容易營造一個投資機會,無論在社會、經驗及文化效益上,足球事業都較其他文娛及康樂活動為大。
 
 
 
當然,香港足球總會肩負起增加更多商業收益的責任,惟以目前本地足球事業的狀況,難以獲得企業的支持。因此,一些來自公共部門或慈善團體的資助是需要繼續維持本地足球事業。香港足球總會感謝「鳳凰計劃」的資助,惟一些主要改變仍然停滯不前。我們試圖在各方面尋求改變,例如已經制訂2014/15年度的香港職業聯賽的相關要求、協助本港兩間甲組球會爭取參加2014亞冠的參賽資格、引進新年齡組別加入青少年發展計劃、加強本會管治架構、行政及營運工作、招攬 具技術及熱情的足球專家來發展草根足球、青少年發展、高效足球、五人足球、女子足球、教練及教練導師等。
 
 
 
然而,除非投入更多金錢在運動上,一切計劃未必收到顯著成效。我們正面臨成敗關鍵的岔口,因此必須與合作夥伴和足球業界人士攜手合作,決定足球如何對公眾、對社區以至對整個香港社會的重要性!與其他運動比較,假如我們無法獲得更佳設施及相關資源,便無法發展一種「高效」文化(或實踐其他計劃),導致我們將會不斷落後於其他國家,我不認同這是香港足球癡的所期望的事情—如本人所言有誤,請予以糾正。
 
 
 
註:由於文中涉及大量專有名詞,敬請以英文版本為準!
















15 comments:

  1. Dear Mark,

    After reading this post and also the Phoenix Project I went back to my HK Football Research to add some new data. We came up with many similar ideas and scenarios but the focus, in my opinion, is the Youth Development.

    I totally agree when you wrote that youth development is not coordinated across HK. In such small place we would expect better organization, coordination, evaluation and control on it.

    My opinion is that are way too many “recreational football schools” or “underground football schools” that are playing an important role in destroying the football culture in HK. These “schools” are looking only for money and they really don’t care if the kids are talented or not, if the kids will have a pathway on football or not.

    Why is it important? It is important because these “schools” are using the scarce facilities around HK that should be available for serious football development. These “schools” don’t have professional and licensed coaches (many of them don’t even have the right to work in HK). The result is awful, low level training sessions that bring some problems: we are losing talented players to other sports, mainly rugby. Some of these kids don’t want to play football anymore.

    I’ve been scouting and watching training sessions around HK for more than 3 years. Happy and surprised to see some great work but horrified with the huge amount of these “underground” schools. And some of these “schools” have lots of kids every week.

    My advice is to create a “HKFA Quality Stamp” that would be awarded to the schools, academies that meet the standards. Would be something like “HKFA INSPECTED AND APPROVED” and the schools should match or exceed the standards in different criteria as outlined in the “HKFA Requirements Book”.
    If the schools can’t match the requirements they would have some time to re-sit the test and would be placed in the non-approved schools. Depending on the case, some schools should be shut down (including employment for “coaches with no right to work).

    The HKFA should create a department focused only on that and walk all around HK checking the schools by surprise in a first moment and then on a determined date for tests. Also all the schools should be registered in the HKFA with the list of the current coaches working for them. Any changes should be immediately communicated. All the schools / academies approved or not should be listed in the HKFA website for public consultation.

    Through this project more facilities would be available, the control and coordination would be effective and the football culture in HK would be more reliable. We are talking about the interests of HK and not about profit of these “black market schools”.

    You are 100% right when wrote “…it’s time to prioritize access and change the current quota system and allocation policy”.
    Does that mean that we should turn our back to recreational football? The answer is, of course, no. But we need a better balance. There are many concrete courts that would accommodate these recreational schools and would link with the introduction of futsal.

    I know it is a long post but I have much more to say about it all.

    Regards

    Bruno Cannavan

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    Replies
    1. Dear Mark and Bruno,

      I would like to say I all agree in your above mentioned points, but it is only limited in the discussion on the Soccer field", why don' we look beyond on it?

      As a local citizens, social sciences professional and soccer lovers, I want to remind that all the development forces in Hong Kong is still dived by the captialism and "tradion customs".

      In Hong Kong, not only for soccer , but also in all sports , people will just treat as a "leisure" activity Professional ? Never! but it is so ironic that Hong Kong maybe a place that the most convenicent to receive as many as good quality live match.

      So my idea is we should link our whole development to the city development, which is the only way out to change the citizen mine in it. only they think this is a possible tools or platform to have a bright furure, no matter in terms of money return or non-monetary return, they will show support to it.

      So my crazy ideas is can we set a National Soccer School( with a corridnation with Education Bureau) to make sure that they can have a balance development in soccer professional and academic training, just like some big europe professional club youth development. Tell you a truth, if we can make the children parents think there is a furture for those children, they must support. Then , why don;t we to make sure that they can have a platform to have a quality acdemic training, and the rest of time to provide a continously and regular training for them?

      Regards,
      Matthew Liu

      Delete
    2. Dear Bruno,
      I absolutely agree that 'youth development' is fundamental. The subject of my blog was 'high performance'. These two things are of course linked but I couldn't hope to cvover the whole development continuum in one blog. Our draft five-year Strategy covers all aspects of football development and what needs to change in terms of youth development to eventually generate players worthy of a high performance system. The document is 137 pages long at the moment because as you say it is difficult to be succinct when there is so much to say and so much change to be implemented.
      You will be pleased to hear that one of the main recommendations of the youth development chapter is a 'Soccer School Accreditation Scheme'. Indeed we have already drafted the criteria. Once approved we hope to roll out this programme as soon as possible.

      Your comments are as ever appreciated and noted.
      Regards
      Mark

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mr Sutcliffe, thanks for sharing your views on how to rebuild HK's football culture, it would be great if all those things work out nicely.

    Talking about football culture in HK, I would like to share something I've seen recently which is related to this topic.

    Every day I have to take a long bus ride from Tuen Mun in New Territories, pass Kowloon, and head south down to Tin Hau in Hong Kong Island. Along my bus journey I have passed over 10 seven-a-side hard-surfaced football pitches in different parts of New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong island, it was 6pm in the afternoon, and among all those seven-a-side hard surface football pitches I passed, most of them were empty; no one was playing football, occasionally there were a few people playing but they were all grown up men aged over 40s.

    On the contrary, in the basketball courts next to all those football pitches, the basketball courts were all crowded. Teenagers, youngsters, secondary school students still in their school uniforms were crowded in the basketball court playing basketball. Many youngsters were even sitting around the court and waiting for their turn to play, it happened next to those empty football pitches, and it happened in all the hard surface pitches all over New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island! What it tells us is this; Hong Kong youngsters are no longer interested in playing football, they have switched their interest to basketball.

    I understand all the complaints and concerns over the lack of grass pitches in HK, but we do have many nice hard surface football pitches everywhere and very few people are using them nowadays.

    Historically, as a result of our crowded living condition and limited living space, Hong Kong’s unique football culture were developed in the small seven-a-side hard surface football pitches instead of the grass pitches. Our great football stars in the past spent their youth playing football on hard surface pitches like the famous Southorn playground pitch, Victoria Park pitches, and Macpherson playground pitch. In the good old days, our hard surface pitches used to be full of people playing football, just like the crowded basketball courts today. It signified the popularity of our beloved sport, and now it signify the downfall in its popularity. The notion that modern Hong Kong people (especially teenagers) are football crazy is nothing but an illusion; It is true that Hong Kong people are crazy in watching football (only in foreign football), but quite a lot of these people watch it for the sack of gambling, and very few modern Hong Kong people (especially teenagers) actually play football nowadays. We no longer have a football playing culture among our youngsters.

    (CONTINUE)

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  4. (CONTINUE)

    I think the main reason of this cool down lies in the lack of opportunity for secondary school students to expose to football within school. In Hong Kong, all secondary schools has basketball courts while only a few prestigious schools has football pitches. Secondary school students can always expose to basketball during school breaks, lunch times and after schools because it just come in handy. The school rules also plays a part in hammering football’s popularity within school; most secondary schools had banned playing football within school because the teachers think that it is dangerous to have the ball being kicked around, they think it might hit people or damage stuffs. Apart from school rules, another factor not to be ignored is a long existed rumor among Hong Kong teenagers; many Hong Kong secondary school students believe playing football can hamper the development of ones height, and since all the guys want to grow tall so as to attract girls, many teenagers switch to play basketball, which explain why many students were enthusiastic in playing football in their primary school days but most of them switch to basketball after they get into secondary school. Of course the notion of playing football can make one grow short is non-scientific and without prove, but it is peer-pressure and some kind of superstition among Hong Kong teenagers. Hong Kong people are dedicated crowd followers and they are terribly afraid of doing something different from the crowd.

    In Asia, unlike Europe and South America, the key player in youth football development is NOT the football clubs, it is always the SCHOOLS, the secondary schools in particular. The success of Japanese and Korean football is not only due to their establishment of J-league and K-league, it is also the result of their strong high-school and University football tradition. I believe the key to rescue HK football lies in how much we can re-inject football culture into Hong Kong’s primary schools, secondary schools, and University. We have to create a trend, a fashion for young people to follow, so as to turn things around.

    Hong Kong’s college football competition is organized by the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation HKSSF and it is plain to see that they are doing a poor job in promoting and organizing college football. I think the HKFA has to take back the right of running Hong Kong’s college football and not let the ineffective HKSSF ruining our game. I imagine it will be a tough task to negotiate with those rigid bureaucrats in HKSSF, but if we can win the control back, its going to be a game changer.

    (CONTINUE)

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  5. (CONTINUE)

    We need a renaissance in our college football which is as important as rebuilding our professional league. I suggest the HKFA to study Japan’s college football development and system. We need to infuse grassroots football knowledge into every schools in Hong Kong; every primary schools, secondary schools, and Universities. We need to help and encourage every schools to set up their own college football team, provide them with knowledgeable coaches to train their school kids’ basic skills, increase the teenagers’ interest in football, and mature their skills and playing tactics through organized tournaments.

    We also need to encourage and assist the schools in setting up their own management and promotional team; we have to teach the school teachers and the school kids how to run, promote and support their own school team as if it is a small professional football club, we can help them setting up their own school cheerleading team, help them create their own fan base to get their fellow classmates to turn up in their school matches and support their team.

    I think the HKFA should reform the Hong Kong college football league as if it is a professional football league, making it well organized and popular, use the school competitions as a platform to promote grassroots football, training talents, and discover exciting young talents. The HKFA has to “commercialised” the college game, getting big sponsors to backup the college games (ideally from sponsors who has major influence on young people, for instance Nike, Adidas, Coco-cola, McDonalds etc), the HKFA also has to promote it to mass medias like TV channels, newspapers and large internet discussion sites, get them to cover, promote and broadcast the college competitions, the target is to get more teenagers to play football during their school years, make them feel that it is a cool thing to take part in college football and feel proud to be a college football stars admired by fellow classmates.

    However, lets say if dreams do come true, assume that the HKFA can successfully make most if not all Hong Kong schools setting up their own football teams, but we still face the lack of grass pitches to satisfy their need, how can we solve the problem? I think the key to the successful reformation of Hong Kong college football lies in the effective use of the emptied seven-a-side hard surface football pitches all over Hong Kong. The HKFA can arrange or encourage the school teams to do their training sessions on hard surface pitches, may be the HKFA can even arrange some of the junior or lower level college competitions on seven-a-side hard surface pitches, or may be the HKFA can set up several tournaments; the eleven-a-side grass pitch tournament, the seven-a-side hard surface pitch tournament, and the five-a-side hard surface pitch tournament.

    How about the structure of the future college league? How can we provide a platform for over 300 school teams to compete? May be we can set up our structure resembling the European professional football leagues; we have 18 districts in Hong Kong and each district has about 30 to 50 schools present, assuming each school has its own school team taking part in our future college tournaments, within each district we can divide their school teams, through competitions, into different divisions, just like in England they have the Premier league, the championship and the division one etc, and of course promotion and relegation systems are present. The top teams in the first division within each district can take part in the pan-Hong Kong tournaments to compete with other top school teams in other districts, we can even have two pan-Hong Kong tournaments like the European Champions league and the Europa league so the mid-table teams in each district also has chance to play in pan-Hong Kong tournaments.

    To conclude, I think it is crucial to reform our college football, commercialize it, modernized it, popularise it, and making good use of our seven-a-side hard surface football pitches all over Hong Kong.

    (END)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Lai Chi,
    Thank you for your comprehensive and interesting comment. If as you say there are hard courts standing empty then I agree these should be used for football. In our new Strategy there are plans to develop futsal, which is a five a side sport ideally suited to smaller hard courts. We are also developing a new grassroots football programme for children between 6 and 12. This will be based on a small-sided games approach, so when you are 6 and 7 you play 4 v 4 or 5 v 5. When you are 8 and 9 you play 7 v 7 and when you are 10 and 11 you play 9 v 9. This system is nor common place in other countries because it is part of a systematic development approach that is age-related and introduces the skills and techniques in a fun environment. All of these programmes can take place on small hard surfaces. Hopefully these initiatives will help to fill the courts again and encourage young people to play football as well as basketball. The HKFA should also engage more with the separate 'Mini-football Association that promotes 7 a side football for adults.
    I also completely agree that football needs to be an integral part of school life. I understand there are constraints in Hong Kong regarding space. I remember when I was at school (yes, I can remember that far back!). We kicked a ball about before school, at break time, at lunchtime and after school. Our PE lessons were dominated by football. If we were good enough we played for the school teams and then the District school teams. It was a good grounding. We are trying to develop closer working relationships with the HKSSF and working together we might be able to increase the numberof competitions. Our new strategy also includes recommendations on coach education and we want to encourage school teachers to take our level1 and level 2 courses so they can teach football in the schools. We also intend to put our own coaches into the schools so that they can help with PE lessons particularly at Primary schools were there may not be specialist PE teachers.
    I must admit, I have never heard about boys not wanting to play football because it might stunt their growth! I've never heard anything so ridiculous. Have they ever seen Peter Crouch! (if people don't know who he is - just google it). I have solutions for most things to do with football by changing this perception stumps even me.
    Anyway, I really appreciate your contribution to this blog.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Mr Sutcliffe

    Just want to know if it is still realistic to expect the construction
    work of the football training centre in Tseung Kwan O to commence
    in 2014?

    Regards

    Lo King-wah

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear King-wah,
    I really wish I could answer your question definitively but to be honest I don't know. The decision to build the Training Centre is outside of the control of the HKFA. The facility is a must if football is going to improve so from our perspective we want the centre as soon as possible. We are ready, willing and able to play our part in delivering this project and we have provided a number of iterations of a business plan to the powers that be. The reality is that it is still possible for a spade to be put in the ground in 2014 but the planning process is going to have to speed up.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Mr. Sutcliffe

    Thanks for sharing the information.

    Lo King-wah

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Mark
    I just have this in my mind when I read there was "one" travelling fan from HK went all the way to Abu Dhabi to support our national team, I'm just thinking there must be quite a few HK people working overseas, as I know quite a lot of countries have HK companies such as HKTDC, HKETO, Cathay Pacific or HK Business Associations etc, could HKFA contact these HK organizations or Associations in advance and ask them to attend and show support when our national team plays over there? at the end of the day, surely it is their desire whether they want to go or not, but at least HKFA can do your part and try to encourage the "local" HK people to support the national team abroad.
    This is just a thought of mine.
    Cheers
    Alec

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dear Alec,
    This is a good idea and I will refer it to our Marketing Department. As you say it will be up to the individuals concerned but 'away' support is always appreciated. I was in UAE myself to support the team (and before anyone says anything, I paid for my own flight and accommodation) and it was a very intimidating atmosphere. Some more HK fans would have helped to balance things up a bit.
    Regards
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for your reply Mark and being the 2nd HK fan in Abu Dhabi, I would have thought you have every single right travelling to UAE for the game as CEO of HKFA in company's expence, you have certainly learnt the culture and being cautious here :) ......Regards

    ReplyDelete
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