Refugees find an equal footing through football
Written by Megan Chan
“They like African culture; they like the food, they like the animals. But they don’t like the people. It’s crazy!” Exclaimed a member of All Black Football Club (ABFC), a Hong Kong-based football team primarily made of refugees and ethnic minorities.
On Thursday, September 28th, All Black FC came to RCHK at the invitation of the school to share their experiences as refugees in Hong Kong. This visit included a coaching session with Y10s, an interview with Year 9s, and subsequent football match with RCHK teachers. With the events taking place throughout the day, this visit provided an opportunity for both students and teachers to further understand both the struggles and successes within their lives and what ABFC strives to achieve.
All Black FC’s visit started on a high note with a football coaching session. Taking place in the morning, ABFC led a PE class for several Y10 classes, working on areas such as fitness upskilling, agility upskilling, and basic football skills. It was a great way for students to improve upon their athleticism, being led and mentored by professional football players.
Year 9 students flooding into the PAC after lunch were greeted with an upbeat performance of an African song. “We have arrived!” they sang, drumming a lively rhythm as accompaniment. It didn’t take long before they started encouraging the audience to clap and sing along, pulling out audience members to dance with them as the music continued. The ten minutes that made up the beginning of the visit to RCHK was full of laughter with ABFC not only sharing the joy of music but also their infectious enthusiasm.
Things soon settled down as the interview began. We were introduced to the different members, learning where each of them came from as well as their favourite football teams. The founders of ABFC then shared their vision with us; “We want to spread a message of equality,” they said, further detailing later about how they faced discrimination in Hong Kong due to their skin colour. They listed instances in their everyday lives, such as asking for directions, only to have locals hastily ignore them, or having conversations with higher-ranked individuals come to a halt once they discover they’re a refugee. The effect their status and race had on the way people perceived them was prominent, and in any circumstance would make one feel uncomfortable and less confident.
They also told us of instances where some of the most well-known and professional HK football teams dropped out in the middle of the match after continually losing against ABFC, upset at the fact that they were losing to a football team made of refugees; It provided and restored a sense of pride for ABFC, to be able to beat supposedly superior local football teams despite their status as a refugee and skin color. Ultimately, their vision for ABFC was to provide a mean of support for refugees and ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, as well as to bond over their love of football.
Being a football team, they also discussed their passions for football. “I didn’t have anything to do,” one member of ABFC had said. Refugees in Hong Kong are not allowed to work, meaning they only live on government subsidies. With all this free time, they decided to join ABFC to follow their passions for football. ABFC trains regularly and has a family-like bond with each other; there’s a true sense of community within the group.
As for aspiring football players? ABFC gave the following advice: To be dedicated, to have passion, and to practice every day. Nobody was born with talent nor skill; it is built up from practice.
A friendly match of football between ABFC and several teachers from RCHK took place after school. Although many students weren’t able to watch it, for those who did, it was most certainly an entertaining match, and without a doubt was fun for the teachers, students and members of ABFC involved too. The teachers did struggle to keep up with the team’s superior skills, and several complained of muscle pains the next day, but it was a still a highly enjoyable event nonetheless.
For those looking to help their cause, it’s simple. For one, we can help fulfil ABFC’s vision; to spread a message of racial equality, not only to others but ourselves as well. You can also help support and donate to various NGOs around Hong Kong that provide support for refugees, such as Christian Action or Amnesty International.