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The football dream that never dies

Ng Chi-on: “Now even the warm-ups are fun. It’s been truly eye-opening.”

Ng Chi-on, also known as Uncle On, is a secondary school football coach with an impressive past that not many may know. A top tier footballer in the 1970s, he started playing in the First Division at 18 and represented Hong Kong at the youth level. After retiring in his 20s, he had different jobs. In 2010, he became a janitor in Fanling Rhenish Church Secondary School (FRCSS) and coach of its football team.

Inspired by the training methods of Christopher O’Brien (middle), Manchester United Soccer School Head Coach – Hong Kong, Uncle On (right) encourages his students to focus on teamwork and explore new ways to play.

As a school football coach, Uncle On never imagined he would get the opportunity to hone his craft with Manchester United. After FRCSS joined ‘The JC School Football Development Scheme’ in 2015, Uncle On and Wong Cho-kee, the school teacher and fellow coach, received an eight-month training. Their coach was Christopher O’Brien, Manchester United Soccer Schools Hong Kong Head Coach, who goes by the nickname “OB”.

“Our previous training was very boring but OB’s approach is different. Now even the warm-ups are fun. It’s been truly eye-opening,” Uncle On says. “We do different warm-up exercises with the ball and work on small-group drills. Football is about teamwork more than individual skills.” What impressed him the most about OB was his detailed planning and emphasis on motivating students. OB always gives out “star players” and “best team player” honours after each training session.

The training scheme that Uncle On took part in is one of the partnership programmes between the Club and Manchester United. Since 2012, the Club has been the official community partner of Manchester United in Hong Kong, bringing an advanced youth training system and ideas to players and coaches in the city.

Most grateful for the opportunity, Uncle On attended every training session despite finding the English instructions a challenge. During the eight-month-long arduous training, he not only applied what he had learned to the coaching of the FRCSS boys’ team but he also founded the school’s first-ever girls’ team together with Wong Cho-kee to compete in HKJC N-League.

“I never tell off my players even if they lose. I just hope they can be happy regardless of the results.”

“This team always used to finish bottom of the league in the early years. Finally, in 2019, we won the 4-a-side HKJC N-League Cup! It was like a dream.” Inspired by OB, Uncle On believes that football is never only about results or fancy skills. “I never tell off my players even if they lose. I just hope they can be happy regardless of the results. The same applies to life. The most important thing is to have a never-give-up fighting spirit.”

In 2015, Uncle On joined The JC School Football Development Scheme, which took him on a new journey as a secondary school football coach. HKJC partnered with Manchester United to launch a training programme - the Jockey Club Elite Youth Football Camp in 2012.

Did you know?

The Club is a long-standing supporter of local football development. It has collaborated with Manchester United since 2012 on a host of programmes to develop the physical, mental and social capabilities of young people. These include the JC Elite Youth Football Camp, JC School Football Development Scheme, JC Youth Football Leadership Scheme, JC Youth Football Fitness Assessment, JC Youth Soccer Skills Challenge, and JC Youth Football Academy Summit.

In 2019, the FRCSS girls’ football team won the HKJC N-League Cup trophy under the leadership of Uncle On.