What does football mean to you? Is it a game between friends? A means to unwind after a day at school? Perhaps it’s a series of events where you live, breath, and die watching your favorite teams and players battle to the death for glory and riches?
To All Black Football Club, football is their lifeline to their second home here in Hong Kong – a language that transcends spoken and written barriers between people on and off the field of play. Adrian Kwong went to take a closer look at Hong Kong’s first refugee club.
All Black Football Club was established in May 0f 2016 as the first refugee team of its kind here in the city of Hong Kong. Thanks to Hong Kong’s broken asylum system, asylum seekers in the city are often left in limbo for years while they wait for their claims to be processed. They are not allowed to work and are only supplied with a measly income to meet food and rental costs. All Black FC sees this, and opens its doors to asylum seekers who need support amid an unfamiliar, and often hostile, environment.
Medard Koya is one of the original founders of All Black Football Club. He arrived in Hong Kong as a volunteer, and his experiences with discrimination and social hurdles strengthened his bond with the city’s refugees.
Listening to Medard, his staff and his players speak about All Black FC, their dedication and love for football and Hong Kong is inspiring. Despite the lack of funding and support, All Black FC is slowly but surely emerging as a platform from which refugees from all over the world, may start to lay down roots as a team and a family. Medard hopes that, by offering All Black FC as a home, the displaced may begin to have a place to call their own.
All Black FC are always on the lookout for new ways to forge better relations with local communities. Set tentatively for next year, the club hopes to launch a program called the Social and Community Integration through Football (SCIF), under the manta “I Love My Community”. SCIF aims to produce coaches from within the refugee and asylum seeker community, and send them all over the city of Hong Kong, where these coaches would teach children and teenagers in various age brackets about football and community. The hope is that, through football, dialog, and shared experiences, communities would come to see these coaches as one of their own. Medard stressed that this would be free of charge; after all, the chance to belong again lies beyond any assigned price.
All Black FC is proof that football is so much more than eleven people kicking a ball. It is so much more than a means to pass the time, or a means to make money. Football brings, and binds people together, to be a part of something greater then themselves. To put it more succinctly, All Black FC aim to break boundaries to bring harmony.
Our thanks to Medard, Stephen, head coach Bidjoua, team captain Darius, and all at All Black Football Club for continuing to show us the power of football in communities, beyond money and prejudice.