The very essence of youth sports is that they promote the kind of well-meaning gregarian values that we all want to see in everyday society; cooperation, the value of hard work, the ability to work as part of a team to achieve a larger goal. All of these things are good for young athletes to learn, as is the ability to lose gracefully.
One athlete in Hong Kong clearly missed out on that last value, as proved by the disturbing video you see below.
As first pointed out on Hong Kong-based blog Badcanto, a rematch of a game between the Kitchee U-12 and English Schools Foundation U-12 squads turned ugly when Kitchee rolled to a dominant first-half lead. This followed an earlier brutal blowout by Kitchee, and ESF -- which Deadspin noted is a pseudo consortium of British-style schools for expatriates in the country -- clearly wasn't willing to sit through a repeat performance.
How they planned to avoid that, however, is much more contentious. As you can see in the video above, ESF essentially channeled its inner Mark Van Bommel, resorting to a series of atrocious fouls to scythe down Kitchee midfielders and forwards once they advanced into potentially dangerous areas.
Then, as a coup de grace, one particular ESF player ran at a Kitchee player after a ball was whistled dead and kicked him directly in the face. Literally, directly in the face.
The facial booting was a deplorable act of poor sportsmanship, but that didn't stop the ESF coach from running onto the pitch to try and defend his player's actions when others were trying to diffuse the situation. The unnamed coach can clearly be heard yelling "Get away from the kid! Get away from the kid!" as referees attempted to talk to the player about his actions.
That's not something that any youth sports program would condone. Yet, incredibly, ESF appears to be actively trying to cover up the entire incident. Badcanto reported that the Kitchee coach and the videographer who originally filmed the incident were hand delivered a letter from ESF lawyers demanding they remove the video from YouTube. While no official justification for the film's removal was given, the demand was clearly issued as a way to protect the players involved and the school's reputation.
Here is how the film's videographer, Alfred Cheung, described his run-in with the ESF lawyer.
Actually, my son (11 years old) is also a victim. No. 2 of ESF kicked my son in the penalty area and at the end line and caused him to bleed. I had never spoken out. However, I received lawyer's letter from ESF unexpectedly today. The letter addresses me to delete the offending video politely. However, a person was sent to my home to give me the letter. I think this is a threat, especially the video he demanded me to delete is not uploaded by me. I will write to ESF to demand apologies for my son's injury and accusation that I was the uploader.
That kick of No.2 of ESF would have sent the Kitchee's kid to hospital for at least six months to a year if it were half inch deeper. This is a very dangerous and nasty act. However, the coach of ESF did not stop it immediately.
It's hard to find anything wrong with Cheung's statement, or his insistence that the video remain live. Everybody makes mistakes, but some are more serious than others. The unnamed player who violently booted his opponent in the face will hopefully learn from the incident, but the video itself can serve as a powerful message for just how much damage even young athletes can do when they let their emotions spiral out of control to a point where they aggressively attack their opponents.
After all, youth sports are supposed to be about fun and camaraderie, not avoiding serious medical bills by a whisker.
- English Schools Foundation