Home is often where the heart is. And for the players of All Black FC (ABFC), one of the most diverse football teams in Hong Kong, the club has become their home, where a sense of friendship and community can flourish.
Five young All Black players took the time to share their hopes and dreams of the future and what playing for the club means to them in terms of identity and a sense of belonging.
Pawanvir: “All Black’s dream is to play in the Hong Kong Premier League”
Pawanvir explained how he joined the team and how his time with ABFC is more than just about playing football.
“I have played for ABFC for three years now and I started to play with them in late 2017. One of my friends from school, Jahangir Khan, who plays for Happy Valley, started with ABFC and I thought the competition there was really good and I could improve myself as a player.”
“I was having some difficulties finding a team, as I didn’t have any contacts with coaches in Hong Kong so I thought I should probably join ABFC and see what happens from there.”
“Initially I just went for football and since it has been three years, I think I have gotten really close to the coaches especially Coach Medard. It is now more like a family thing, as I just don’t want to play for myself individually. I just want the team to be successful. I know how much effort the coaches have placed into this as they started the team from nothing, so if they have put his trust into me, I hope to repay it with good performances and hope I can help the team improve as well. Before the lockdown the All Blacks practiced five times a week, so training was every weekday.”
“Anyone and everyone can play for All Black FC and the only component is that, if you are good enough then no problem, as you will play in games as the coach does not discriminate against anyone. I have been at the All Blacks for three years, if you perform well then the coach will place you in for a game and he does not care about your background.”
Pavanvir was quick to stress that anyone can join ABFC even if they want to play some casual games.
“There are players who can come along casually and, every Friday, we would have some friendlies with some players who are older and a lot of people who don’t want to play too competitively would come down and play in those games.”
“When you are at ABFC, then you will know you have a team, and hopefully, I will be at the All Blacks for one or two years until I get a professional contract. The team gives you a sense of security in the fact that whatever happens, they will always be there for you. Three to four ABFC players have become professionals.”
Pavanvir has grown up and lived in Hong Kong, India and the United States. He can fall into the category of a third culture child, though he feels Hong Kong is his home.
Pavanvir was born in Hong Kong, and then he split his time in primary school between Hong Kong and India. He left for the United States for two years and eventually returned to live in Hong Kong ever since. Because of this experience, he always ponders where home really is for him.
“Even for India, I still feel like a bit of a stranger, as you may look Indian, but they know that you are not from India. So if India and Hong Kong would be to play a football match, then who would I support?” He said. “In the back of my mind, I would say India. like when we watch India play sports like cricket. But if I was to pick one team to play for, then I would say Hong Kong, as this is where I have become who I am.”
The All Blacks are self-funded and Pavanvir gave examples of how people can help ABFC in different ways.
“It is a combination of funding and sponsorship. For funding, coach Medard usually tries to work something out. That is the hard part, and if we were to play in the Hong Kong Premier League then we would need sponsorship for jerseys and items like that as we are not a big club like Kitchee or Pegasus. Some form of sponsorship is important and we are giving the potential sponsor something back in return. For example, if we perform well, then people can see the sponsorship logo on the jersey.”
Pavanvir explained the impact of the coaches and delved into his future plans. He said that the two coaches, Medard and “Daddy,” who are both in their 40s.
“The coaches are still very good. They are their 40s and sometimes they still play in our friendlies and you can’t really tell that they have not played for a long time. I was a winger and now recently, I have been more of a right-back, but I would like to try and go back to midfield.”
“For the All Blacks, the dream is to play in the Hong Kong Premier League. If you look at the level, we have played some friendlies against teams like Pegasus and Rangers, and you could not really tell that ABFC had not played a professional game before.”
“I would like to sign a professional contract though I would also like to finish my education at HKU as a backup. As for football, maybe I can play till I am 37 or 38 provided I am healthy. I would like to finish my degree and also sign a professional contract.”
Ben: “ABFC does give us that sense of identity”
Ben was happy to elaborate on the sense of community and friendship which permeates through the All Blacks.
“ABFC in terms of community gives us the feeling of home. The emotional attachment or bond is quite strong between players and the coach despite our racial differences. Not only that, the way All Black treats its players is way more than friendship, it’s more like a family.”
“ABFC is for everyone, whether you are Chinese, Indian, Pakistani or even African. The club has no barriers in terms of race, so it’s open to everyone. I think more people should join All Black because of the sense of belonging it brings, and because there aren’t many clubs in Hong kong providing that specialty of having a diversified multicultural environment, which makes it more unique. This feature makes All Black FC stand out from other football clubs in Hong Kong, that’s why I urge people to join ABFC.”
Ben openly shared how the team can help foster a sense of identity and how football gave him the chance to meet new people and feel more at home in Hong Kong.
“Yes, ABFC does give us a sense of identity. The football club tries its best to bring out all the potential in a player. Moreover, the coaches are always there to help out in different aspects, even helping the player outside of football. For example, showing psychological support to the players when the coaches feel the need. The coaches and players also try to support the community, for example, by participating in community services like elderly visits.”
“To be honest, at first I didn’t think about Hong Kong as my home, partly because of my race. In Hong Kong, I didn’t have many friends. For example, if I wanted to play football in a park, it would be hard for me to play with the locals, because they saw me as an outcast, since I didn’t speak the language, so it was kind of hard to fit in the community. However, as time went by, I started to learn the language and started making more friends by intertwining myself with the culture and the community here. Not only that, I started to see more ethnic minorities pursuing the same dream as me, so it gave me hope. From then on Hong Kong slowly became home.”
Ben hopes that the ABFC can expand and make a greater impact on Hong Kong society. At the beginning, All Black FC did not receive a lot of promotion, but he is glad to see it growing into a bigger community. However, he still would like to see more Hong Kongers support ABFC.
“I think the most important thing that the people in Hong Kong can do is to show their support to All Black by promoting it to the locals. As I said before, All Black isn’t just for ethnic minorities but everyone. So I would like to see more people from the local community joining the club,” he said. “As for me, my dream is to make it to the professional level of football in Hong Kong.”
Eason Lam: “ABFC players have a different cultural background, but they are all Hong Kongers”
Eason believes playing for a team like ABFC allows people from different backgrounds and cultures to meet each other.
“Being one of the few members of All Black FC who has a Hong Kong family background, there are many things I would like to share about this team.”
“First of all, playing for ABFC means a lot to me when we are talking about a sense of community and friendship. Before I joined, I had only played for local teenage teams and my school team, it was relatively rare for me to communicate with people from a different cultural or family background.”
“The only time that I had communicated with someone from a different background was when I went to school, since I go to an English secondary school (La Salle College). Therefore playing for All Black FC helped me to build up a good bond.”
“Maybe they have a different cultural background or heritage, but they are all Hong Kongers. They are born like other children in Hong Kong and have a similar education and life experience,” he said.
Even so, Eason still saw subtle differences in the backgrounds of his teammates, and being in ABFC propelled him to forge friendships with them.
Eason loves the opportunities that All Black has given him in terms of a high level of training, which matches some professional teams.
“All Black FC is a football team that accepts all people who have a passion in football and who are willing to make an effort to improve themselves. People should join ABFC, because here they have a good platform for those who want to improve before even becoming professionals. All Black have at least four to five training sessions a week and sometimes they even provide chances like friendly games with other professional teams in Hong Kong. I can’t find another team with such professional training in Hong Kong other than the Premier League teams!”
Eason elaborated that Hong Kong can be home for people from all different backgrounds and shared his dreams for the future, as he hopes to continue playing the game.
“Playing for ABFC gives me a sense of identity. I feel I am playing for a big family who is also a part of Hong Kong society.”
“Of course Hong Kong is a home for me. But more importantly, Hong Kong is a home for other people who were born and live here. Again, they maybe have a different family background or skin colour, but they also grow up in Hong Kong. They are also part of Hong Kong society, and they should also be part of the big family of Hong Kong.”
“People can help ABFC in many different ways. Of course, donations are one of the most efficient ways, but if people are willing to support All Black other than donations, providing different training equipment like footballs and cones, that’s also a way to help us. Since we don’t have many sponsors we really need your support!”
“My dream of course is to become a professional and play for the Hong Kong team in the future. I think this is the dream of many people in Hong Kong. To make my dream come true, I will work hard together with my teammates. I hope one day I can play with them in the national team.”
Tristian: “ABFC is a multicultural club that contributes to Hong Kong by supporting all individuals, no matter their ethnic background”
Tristian is honoured to be part of the All Black Family and discusses how the team also does voluntary work to contribute back to society.
“My name is Tristian McCall, I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I am 20 years old and play as a striker for ABFC.”
“When I first joined All Black, I was genuinely surprised by how welcoming all the coaches and players were to me, and how passionate they were for football. I felt as if I’ve already been accepted almost immediately and ABFC has become my second home ever since. I have made countless friends here and whenever we finish the training or match we would go and have meals together, giving me a sense of warmth and togetherness in the club.
All Black is a multicultural club that contributes to Hong Kong by supporting all individuals no matter their ethnic background, not only in terms of football, but also when it comes to voluntary work to encourage their members to better integrate into society. They have been doing this since 2016 and I think they deserve to get some recognition from the society for the work they’ve been consistently doing for four years.”
Tristian stressed that teams like All Black FC allow players from all backgrounds to showcase their skills.
“In Hong Kong, a lot of ethnic minorities don’t have a consistent platform for football, because they simply aren’t given the chance to prove themselves. ABFC has been helping a lot of ethnic minorities in this aspect, there are youth teams now and recently they played in the HKFA league, which is a big step forward for the club. People who want to join ABFC can simply contact the club. Anyone can join, as all individuals are seen and accepted equally. It is a multiculturally diverse club with members from all different backgrounds.”
“I get a lot of questions from my friends and family members or even strangers, asking which club I play for, and my answer is always All Black FC. I’m proud to be in this club and I’m honoured to be able to wear the kit and represent this team.”
Even though the club has limited financial resources, it has one thing in abundance: heart. Tristan shared how others can help the team in their own little way.
“The club has never had the financial resources like the clubs in the HKFA leagues, yet the managers and coaches take money out of their own pockets to provide for us young players. You can’t say a lot of teams do this. The manager, coach and the club have the heart and goodwill to do this and all the members really appreciate them for their sacrifices. In order to try to help the club, we try to buy our own shirts, shorts etc, giving the club some financial support.”
“People in Hong Kong can help the club by donating or buying some merchandise, as we don’t have sponsors yet, and it would be deeply appreciated if society can contribute back to a club that represents important values. As a member, I really hope All Black FC can grow and be given resources just like other teams in Hong Kong. If given the resources and support, I have no doubt this club will grow, as everyone here is passionate in doing what we love, which is football.”
Meeran: “My Goal is to serve the community”
Meeran is excited about playing for All Black and enjoys the high standard of the coaches and players. He also hopes to showcase their skills to the wider community.
“Playing for All Black means a lot, because the team has people from all over the world and we have a lot of young players who are ethnic minorities like Indians, Nepalese and Pakistanis.”
“It really means a lot to me playing with them and competing at a high level, so we can show the local community that we are also part of the Hong Kong sporting scene. Most of All Black are not Hong Kong passport holders and we are just residents. We are all migrants from different countries playing together, so this means a lot, as we can show the community that we are here and that we can achieve something on a high level.”
Meeran says everyone is welcome to join and be part of the ABFC family in different capacities, but dedication is what pushes one to be in the starting lineup every game.
“People can come for training and be part of the club, though to be in the matches, you have to have a high level of commitment,” he said. “Training and discipline come first, so involvement matters, no matter how good you are.”
“We want all of us to have the same dream, vision and passion of not just playing football, but also giving something back to the community. If we all can show dedication towards this goal, we can be a part of ABFC.”
The best sporting talents often come from the streets and the success rate depends on many factors.
“Most of the great and good players in Hong Kong are usually playing in the streets. They can be the best, though sometimes they do not get to show their talent, as they don’t have a Hong Kong passport or because of their family background or financial issues. All Black look beyond all those factors as they don’t really care where you come from or what you are or if you have a passport or not. As long as you are dedicated and involved then you are welcome to play for ABFC.”
“I was not born in Hong Kong, but I grew up and studied here,” he said. “Hong Kong is basically home for me. It is like home as home is where you feel safe and involved.”
Meeran would like to give back to the community and help nurture the younger generations as well.
“I am a student and I study computer science. Sports is a passion and I do part-time football coaching back in my high school. My goal is to serve the community by doing what I was not able to do earlier in my life. I could not play much football when I was younger, as I was not getting the coaching I am getting right now. I want to pass onto the younger generation what I could not do, not just in terms of football, but also fitness. I also want to pursue a career as a software engineer or programmer. A simple man who goes to work and who serves the community.”
Different goals and dreams yet all willing to work hard for them – united by All Black FC.
For more information on All Black FC and how to assist, please check out their Facebook and Instagram pages: https://www.facebook.com/allblackfchongkong/ + https://www.instagram.com/allblackfchk/?hl=af