Sport, like football, is more than just a game. It gives people the chance to have a second chance in life, build a sense of community and gain self-esteem. For some, sport is the light at the end of the tunnel and can provide hope and discipline, which can help some people on the fringes of society to pave their way to a better future.
The KSA (Hong Kong Christian Kun Sun Association) helps former prison inmates to re-intergrate into society upon release. For many, the step is daunting, due to the negative perception inmates have and due to the fact that both life and the world have moved on. Their perceived reality of everyday life has also evolved. Life does not wait and for many a support network is required, otherwise, some will fall through the gaps again.
KSA has helped ex-inmates to find a greater sense of community beyond themselves, as well as build up essential life skills like discipline and team work. Esther Tung of the KSA recently discussed their work and how football can offer hope and discipline for the people that the organization helps.
“KSA stands for the Hong Kong Christian Kun Sun Association. Our association visits prisoners in Hong Kong and we also see them when they leave. We work on their rehabilitation because ultimately the aim is that they would be rehabilitated and they can integrate back into society. The biggest problem with prisoners is that they go back to prison, so we want to reduce this by providing programmes and support for them, so that they can have a different way of thinking and they can have a holistic life support and a different approach to life skills. Hopefully this means that they wont go back to prison.”
Do you think the general public has a negative perception of ex-prisoners. How can this perception be changed?
“Yes, I do think the general public have a negative perception, as many will think they are like drug addicts. Of course there are prisoners who have done these things, but there is also a perspective that some can never change. But that is an unfair assumption as everyone has done bad things, in fact all of us have done bad things before, but this does not mean that we can never change. So in reality, there are opportunities for people. Even the most badly misbehaved people can change and this is the premise that we work on. That there is the potential for them to change. Of course, in our perspective, we have got to believe that having faith is a base for change. Believing in a higher principal could motivate someone to have a change of heart and following a different thinking will assist them in that change.”
“How can we change the perspective of society, you might ask? It is just by showing people that they themselves can experience change in their lives and in various ways: support from friends, community and society, as well as different church organisations. Prisoners with this kind of support and people helping them with a greater sense of normalcy will be able to change their behaviours and live in a different way.”
How can sport like football help to turn their lives around?
“Sport is really a wonderful way of getting different social strata coming together, so we are going to have regular volunteers who work in regular jobs and ex-prisoners who have been rehabilitated. We also have social workers and all this gives some prisoners the opportunity to mingle with different kinds of people and come together. If something bad happens on the field, then they have to control themselves and learn, ‘OK, I cannot just beat this person or throw something at them”, so they watch and learn how other people interact and this helps them to modify their own behaviour. When they play these games, then they can hear the stories of how other people have changed. If they listen to these stories then they themselves are also encouraged and inspired to become a successful ex-inmate story.”
“It also helps them to build up their team work. Some ex-prisoners may be anti-social or they are defensive due to their harsh family background. They have not learnt how to work with people. Football is team work, so people are co-operating together and they need to learn how to work together or interact with others.”
“They need to give and take, so it helps them in team building skills like co-operation and how to sacrifice to others, as many prisoners have tended to do things on their own, which has also gotten them in trouble, as some refuse to work in a team. In the structure of sports, it teaches them how to deal with rules as well.”
At a recent football match against the British Consulate, members of the KSA football team discussed their experiences and how the KSA and football itself has assisted their journey back into everyday life.
William Wong started the football team and shared his thoughts. “The KSA football team began in 1993 and we have taken part in some cup competitions and won many trophies and cups. I retired and handed the team over to David.”
Tevi, who has been the coach of the KSA football team since 2016, spoke of his experience.
“Football has the chance to gather people together, so our first criteria is that we are not seeking people who are talented. We are looking for players who have got good hearts and the goal for most of the KSA players is to help them re-integrate into society, so what we do is use football with some bible values and to impact the players with love, because on the pitch, someone can hurt you, but in the KSA, we have to embrace love. This is how we show them that the values on the pitch, we can also use in society.”
Football, more than just a game, gives many people a second opportunity to rebuild their lives. Everyone deserves that chance.
For more on the KSA, please go to http://www.ksa.org.hk/