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Happiness through football – Samuel Bensley
Happiness through football – Samuel Bensley
Samuel Bensley
Samuel Bensley
Grassroots Football Manager, Hong Kong Football Association

Happiness should drive every football player.

“If one is unhappy about football, or is forced to play the sport, one should give it up.” To spread happiness, Samuel Bensley joined the Hong Kong Football Association and became its Grassroots Football Manager, promoting the “can-do spirit” through “happy football” and leading football players, coaches, schools and children to experience the joys of football. His vision: “no matter the time and place, great fun can be had – with just one football and one group of people.”

Happiness is a choice, especially on the football pitch, and it does not diminish even when you lose a match. Sam was Head Coach for the Hong Kong District All-Stars team at the first Jockey Club Youth Football Academy Summit, leading a team of young footballers against the Manchester United Academy U16 team. Faced with overwhelming odds, the team underwent arduous training – even Sam was no exception. “All the laps we ran, the physical training we did – I had to take the lead and do it myself.”

Through leading by example, Sam won the trust of his team and the recognition of many. “I don’t like just giving orders; what I enjoy is to take on challenges as a team, and excel as a team.” Though they lost the friendly match, Sam and his team took the loss in stride, and welcomed with open arms the opportunity to learn.

Choosing between happiness and grief – it all depends on one’s mindset.

Samuel Bensley promotes the ”can-do spirit” through “happy football”.
Sam ordered an unsweetened ice tea in his heavily-accented Cantonese and enjoyed his barbecued pork using chopsticks – which he held like a calligraphy brush.
Experience is a lesson that pays off

Our interview with Sam took place at a local café, where Sam ordered an unsweetened ice tea in his heavily-accented Cantonese to go with a dish of barbecued pork rice, which he ate with chopsticks. “Many British coaches are proud of their own culture and are only capable of forcing their ‘formula of success’ on football teams of other countries. Inevitably they fail.” Sam worked for two years in Beijing and one year in Hong Kong, and in both places he was able to adapt to the local culture. “Only by accepting and learning the local way can we promote football tailored for locals.”

There is something that Sam rarely mentions to others: His parents divorced when he was young, and both parents formed new families of their own, which broke his heart. From this ordeal, Sam learned to be resilient, and he believes that the younger such a thing happens the more capable one can be in facing and overcoming future challenges. “Experience is a process of learning, and each hurdle is a chance to move forward – from learning to accept and guide yourself, to guiding others.”

Now 29, Sam was born in Norwich. In senior secondary school, he joined a course on sports and football coaching. In university, he began studying sports journalism and had the opportunity to interview both football stars and team managers. After a year, he changed his major to focus on football coaching and community work.

Grassroots football means playing football anytime, anywhere.
In the coming years, Sam will focus on encouraging more schools, parents and children to join the expanding grassroots football community where they can learn in a joyful and relaxed atmosphere.
Golden opportunity to broaden horizons

In preparing for the Jockey Club Youth Football Academy Summit, the biggest challenges for Sam, head coach of the Hong Kong District All-Stars team were to select players from the 18 district teams; put them together as a team, and train them up so that they could compete against the Manchester United Academy U16 team – all in a matter of just six weeks. Sam rose to the challenge by organising three trainings per week and three training matches in total.

“We knew our chances were slim, but the experience was what was important. It was a rare opportunity for the younger players to experience world-class football training and to open up their horizons.” Despite going into the game as the underdogs, these youths treasured the opportunity and gave it their best, earning the cheers of the audience.

Even as the match ended with the Manchester United Academy U16 team winning 7 to 0, Sam believes that the experience was all that mattered. In the coming years, Sam plans to focus on encouraging more schools, parents and children to join the expanding grassroots football community, where they can learn in a joyful and relaxed atmosphere.

“Even though we could not win, we know that the process is more important than the result.” Even as some may appear to sail smoothly their whole life, they might have overcome hurdles and setbacks unbeknownst to others. Sam believes that only by breaking through the waves can one scale the next peak in life.

Jockey Club Youth Football Academy Summit
Event website: //corporate.hkjc.com/corporate/english/jc-news-and-activities/jc-youth-football-development/community-partnership/cp-mu/cp-academy-summit.aspx
Watch full-game replays: Hong Kong District All-Stars team vs Manchester United Academy U16 team
https://youtu.be/XwQqxKuF45I
Hong Kong U17 team vs Manchester United Academy U16 team
https://youtu.be/F9OQK8_q1e4
Watch game highlights: Hong Kong District All-Stars team vs Manchester United Academy U16 team
https://www.facebook.com/HKJCYouthFootballDevelopment/videos/1011584202278256/
Hong Kong U17 team vs Manchester United Academy U16 team
https://www.facebook.com/HKJCYouthFootballDevelopment/videos/1013861108717232/

Through the heartwarming stories, we salute remarkable individuals and inspire the community with their positive values.

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