Sports advocate says culture of athleticism a universal language

Wang Yuke

Sports advocate says culture of athleticism a universal language

As a star-studded delegation of national athletes will meet with the Hong Kong public for three days beginning Friday, a frisson of thrill is anticipated. Will their visit trigger a whirlwind of passion for sports among Hong Kong youth? The answer is likely to be yes because sports is a main attraction in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the sporty mood is already there.

Probably nobody is in a better position than Eric Fok Kai-shan, vice-president of Fok Ying Tung Group, to give the background of sports in the region. Fok is the vice-chairman of Hong Kong Football Association as well as vice-chairman of the Hong Kong United Youth Association.

porting culture has a universal language, blurring barriers of all forms and boasting the power of bonding through tacit mutual understanding and respect. This year, sports have brought hope and spirit to a world languishing in the vestige of the COVID-19 pandemic, through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Fok said. “You can see the power of sports in uniting communities and societies,” he said.

The agency of sports might well be amplified in the 15th National Games in 2025, which will be jointly hosted by Hong Kong, Guangdong province and Macao. “This is the first-ever national sports games being held in the region since the Greater Bay Area was launched. It is a very forward-thinking move by the central government because through the games, the ‘9+2’ cities can be truly linked up,” Fok said. He said he expects mutual understanding to be fostered when people travel across the border to different GBA cities to watch the games.

When sports and youth — the epitomes of dynamic and positivity — come together, there is chemistry, Fok said. The idea of leveraging sports to spark heartfelt interaction can be traced back to as early as 1978, when the first Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup was held to promote the integration and exchange between the two cities, he said. But these days, the focus of Guangdong-Hong Kong communication “has been more on the youth”, Fok said.

As the executive chairman of Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association, he initiated the first session of a Greater Bay Area soccer contest in 2018, the seminal year marking the 40th Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup and coincidentally the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Over 200 young soccer enthusiasts from the three regions ostensibly pit against each other’s teams at the annual GBA youth soccer exchange event, but beneath the surface friendship, affection and collectivism were sown, which is precisely what Fok expects to see. “We hoped the youth to understand more of the nation’s development through participating in the tournaments.”

Carrying on this “formula”, Fok said they continue to organize a GBA youth soccer contest in Guangzhou every year, along with GBA basketball tournaments in Dongguan.

The young generation today might throw a dismissive shrug to the traditional forms of sports because they are always looking for something that gives them a much bigger adrenaline rush. Attuned to the young people’s tastes, Fok has promoted esports, aiming to launch a Hong Kong esports soccer league, and the winners will represent Hong Kong in esports at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games.