An ESL Football Incident

Excerpts from an ESF Educational Services email early this morning:

“I am writing to you because there has been a good deal of understandable concern about an incident during a football match…………Under-12 game… 10-year old player… videoed making a kick that contacted the head of Kitchee Escola player…..  ESF and ESL deeply regret any injury………..Chief  Operating Officer of ESL… wrote to boy’s father… Head Football Coach… written to the Chairman of Kitchee Football Club expressing their regret. We accept the disciplinary action that the Hong Kong Development League Association has taken. … understand the parent of the injured child has referred the matter to the police and we will cooperate fully with any police investigation. ….”

I received the video in question quite early on, but didn’t (and won’t be) putting it up. For those not in HK, the edited Youtube was of a 10 year old boy who kicked another boy in the face when the other boy was down, during a football match. I only watched one clip, and couldn’t see the (if any) effect the kick had on the fallen boy, and the clip I was sent did not show further footage re the injury so I really have no idea how bad or not the kick was. (My immediate reaction to the video was not “OMG! Is that boy ok?? Does he need stitches???” it was more “Foul! And the other boy got kicked in the face while he was down!”)

Btw I’m yet to enroll Rockstar into any ESF sports, but that’s because of both a current scheduling problem and the fact he is very tiny (as in, he came home from school real happy one day that there was one girl in his class that was the same height as him) and I was afraid he had yet to pick up enough ball sports skills to not see himself as totally lousy on an actual team and get discouraged. (Meantime, Kings brings him to his adult basketball games.) Without the size and current scheduling problem, Rockstar would definitely have joined some ESF sports, like many of his friends are doing.

“However we are also concerned about the impact on the young ESF Lions player of the very public posting of an edited video on Youtube….. From Sunday evening ESL has been asking Kitchee Football Club to use their good offices to request the removal of the video…….. ESL asked its lawyer to write to the parent who we believed had posted one of the clips….. and the Kitchee Football Club Chairman to press our request for removal….. The lawyer’s letter makes clear our concern about the injury to (other) child and is designed solely to get the video clips closed down……… distress that the offensive comments were causing to the ESF Lions Player and his family.

We have also commented…. our disappointment… Hong Kong Development League released its findings to journalists, from whom we learnt of them, before making them known to the ESF Lions player, his family, the coach or ESL and without an explanation of what the “disciplinary action” would constitute…….

As an immediate knee-jerk reaction following the video, the very few ESF mums I discussed this with were worried about their own kids, and it rubbed off on me too. I mean, our kids are 4. Mine is a very tiny (and thin-skinned) 4, and I try to discreetly volunteer at playtime once or twice a month just to be sure he’s making friends alright in school.

However then someone said, “If it were my child (kicking), I would have wanted my child’s coach to stick up for my child, regardless of (and of course I would expect there to be) disciplinary action for the foul. And where was the referee, anyway?” and I agree.

First of, I may not be the right person to talk to about getting kicked in the face. As a fairly weak and sickly child I started more serious taekwondo training at about 9, trained on all-boys teams in my teens, and my mother told me she walked out of the auditorium when I got kicked in the face sans protective gear, through the years, to keep from “interfering”. I sustained horrific bruises on my limbs from sparring with all the guys, that drew quite some attention if I wore shorts or tees. This in itself is not an indication either – my mother has also dropped me off, doubled over and barely able to walk from food poisoning, across busy roads to get to the doctor’s, rather than swing round and drop me right in front. (i.e. her raising of me was tough, and I didn’t always agree with it, though I concede to being happy she did not interfere with my fights.) And well, I was never kicked by someone wearing soccer boots (HOW hard was it though?). And I have the view of the mum of a 4yr old – the boys in the video are 10 or 11. At that age I was already chalking up the bruises, but right now I’m still the mum of a 4yr old.

“…..Appropriate action will be taken….but….. have to ensure that criticism of a ten-year-old who made a serious mistake does not get out of hand ….ask for your support in allowing us to manage the follow-up…..in a firm and appropriate way but out of the spotlight of the social media which is too harsh an environment for a child to be exposed to.”

(I did the underlining, not Heather Du Quesnay, Chief Executive Officer, English Schools Foundation, because I really respected the way it was said and can’t think of a more professional way it could’ve been handled.)

Things happen in sports, and there are coaches, referees, sports leagues et al for just this reason. I get to sit here and type rather unemotionally because it was not my child that was harmed. If my child got kicked with boots on, it’s entirely possible I would behave in a similar way to the parent of the child who’d gotten kicked. In other words, the kicker needs protecting too. But I expect him to be disciplined. The parent in me however is only human, it’s a foul, any number of reasons that nonetheless would all be over-ridden by the simple fact that if someone harmed my child and it was avoidable (and yes a foul), I would want the punishment of that someone to be cruel and unusual. End of story. Though I might be going after the ref. Where was the referee?

It is therefore for the coaches, referees, sports leagues et al to do the protecting of the other child who did the kicking, who is still also a child. Because if my child was kicked….. (especially if say, injured worse than say bruises, I mean – it doesn’t say how hard the kick was – but you know, you can’t expect to play without bruises. And you can’t expect not to have the book thrown at you for a foul. It’s when everyone else starts hopping about, some of it hitting below the belt with their own personal motives even when children are involved (say, spotlight, in the case of excited journalists with one-sided stories – IF any happen to be harassing people then for shame!) I might not be able to remember the kicker is also a child. So in a perverse way, it’s actually heartening to see some effort taken to protect the other child. Just in case someday it is my own child who did the kicking. Not that I ever expect Rockstar to, of course I hope to brainwash him into never fouling. I’m just saying, because I would expect him to be punished and I don’t want him punished. Best is don’t do the crime so you don’t get the time. But in the meantime the child is still learning. That’s what they have grownup referees for. And however sorry that child is, I don’t think any child can be prepared for aggressive internet threats and harassment.

But don’t get me wrong here. My knowledge of the intricacies of soccer would fit on the head of a pin, and I’m married to someone who says people can die from soccer games, but there is a certain “language” or “code of honor” in sports that I believe should transcend all sports, particularly for the developing minds and personalities of children:

Through the years as I did competitive taekwondo and went for gradings (maybe the one time I will mention that I didn’t just hold a black belt, I had one that also qualified for further certification internationally – our instructors back then also told us and our parents that they submitted our names on record with the police because if we were ever to start a street fight or whatever we would be stripped without a second chance) – when the referee says “break,” you stop fighting. It doesn’t matter if you are in mid-kick. You stop. You don’t stop, it is your foul, not your opponent’s. 

The reason why fights can look “boring” (which is a myth – my team mates have literally had their teeth kicked out. Blood, stitches, the whole bit – not a foul, it was the angle of that kick) and unlike what you see in the movies is because unlike what you see on tv if the examiner or referee yells for you to break it up you stop, or you are failed or disqualified. Doesn’t make for good tv. And it doesn’t matter how talented you are. I remember as a young teen initially looking up to this one senior of mine who was just so exceptional with the most amazing moves in the fights. It was an important lesson to me growing up, when he was never allowed to progress beyond a brown/ red belt. Grading after grading, no one ever said, “Oh, I’m sure he’s learnt his lesson, he’s had to repeat 4, 5, 10, countless times.” It was You Don’t Have The Discipline To Practice Restraint, You Aren’t Fit For The Next Level. The effect on all the other kids and young adults was amazing. 

Ok I waffled about a bit, I’m sorry. I am an idealist about certain things, sports being one of them (yeah a bit silly, considering Linsanity then got me into the whole NBA and the Knicks thing), but especially for the lessons children get to learn. Sports for children shouldn’t just be about talent and winning. And many other children are going to learn from their peers, friends, other talented kids they look up to.

Oh wait, lemme re-paste that bit:

“…..Appropriate action will be taken….but….. have to ensure that criticism of a ten-year-old who made a serious mistake does not get out of hand ….ask for your support in allowing us to manage the follow-up…..in a firm and appropriate way but out of the spotlight of the social media which is too harsh an environment for a child to be exposed to.”

What more does anyone want? Ok, shut up, back to work.

Just as long as the punishment isn’t cruel and unusual. Personal threats to the kicker are below the belt.

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
Posted in Rockstar Thoughts, School For Rockstar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 comments
  • Creativeimps

    I think the focus has been in the wrong place, are most 10 year olds inherently bad? No they’re not. Why was the game apparently out of control? We are talking about 10 year olds, there is an adult referee whose job it is to control the game and ensure it is played within the rules (laws) and a coach who is there as an adult to supervise, mentor and guide the children. To my mind both have been negligent in that duty. I have coached and refereed for many years and know that if you coach players to play within the laws and to treat others with respect they do. If you have a problem during a game you substitute the player and speak to them quietly to resolve the issue, you don’t ignore it until it becomes a major issue. As a referee one of your major roles is to ensure the safety of players in the game, judging by the number of illegal tackles (clumsy or not) that were being exercised, the referee was not adequately controlling the game.
    All of this was then exacerbated by the knee-jerk reaction of involving lawyers rather than expressing concern, assurances that an investigation would take place and pressing the governing body to engage all parties in a non-confrontational manner. ESL managed to pour fuel onto the fire rather than water!

    • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

      There was a South China Morning Post article (after I initially posted this) mentioning the referee received censure, as did the coach and parents who ran onto the field and kinda chased the kicker around yelling… SCMP also reported that the 10yr old boy was arrested and charged by the police (football league punishment on the hand being a one season suspension) and released on bail pending a hearing in a month…

      I agree the lawyers’ letter probably poured fuel, in the sense that no manner of apologetic tone or concern expressed for the kickee’s injury could easily have smoothed the feathers ruffled by the fact of a lawyers’ letter… I just don’t know how else they could have gotten the Youtubes taken down, having made other efforts like contacting the other football club, plus the written apologies I think they mentioned issuing before that?

  • http://lifeafter38.blogspot.com/ zmun2

    Dunno why, after reading your post, the movie “Million Dollar Baby” and the real life unfortunate event of James Bulger cross my mind. :(

    Anyway, bystanders should just do as the school requested so that the school can do their job. 

    But if it was my brother who was kicked, I would want to see that the “kicker” be punished appropriately. However if it was my brother who kicked someone, for sure he would be punished by my parents.

    • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

      James Bulger, the boy who was abducted, tortured n killed by 10yr olds?? Um… Ok that one I fail to see the relevance, but Million Dollar Baby……. That foul punch after she had already won, that horribly disabled her for life…. Punishments should suit the crime. The punch she received was mean-spirited and the result of a sore losing grownup – AND hard enough to disable someone.

      “Appropriate punishment”…. There are so many factors involved in general discussions and we don’t know all these factors (for eg severity of injury), what football league’s regular punishments for fouls of this nature are, what school punishments are….. So many things we don’t know. But we do know there have been aggressive Internet comments, Youtubes, judgements/ opinions of parent or child, media attention….. And I wonder how many of these were meted out with sufficient knowledge of the full picture…

      • http://lifeafter38.blogspot.com/ zmun2

        True, true, bystanders with no knowledge of the full picture should not be making any personal attacks on the “kicker” but general statements should be ok gua. 

        IMO the parents of the “victim” in this case should have the right to demand justice for their son.

        Hmmmm, I myself also dunno why that unfortunate case pop to mind – maybe the common factor – age – 10 years old.

      • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

        Apparently the Chinese papers are showing pics of a cut on the boy’s face from the football boot… I haven’t seen the pic, it was described to me..

        I have a thing about press and sensationalism that stems from a completely unrelated recent experience of someone I know… Something had happened to her family that was quite news (or at least tabloid)-worthy and in an effort to cut down any risky road or etc encounters with paparazzi, they told us they had faxed their family itinerary to certain press. However this did not appear to satisfy those who wanted to take pictures, and they apparently said something along the lines of “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.” The family was told they HAD to allow pictures of their faces to be taken by paparazzi anywhere on the street  - including that of their 4.5 yr old daughter. One day, I actually watched two paparazzi doing just that to their little girl whom I remembered as quite shy….So when it comes to “negative” journalism my view may be colored by this.. (The story that happened to break btw has nothing to do with their child, and I didnt blog about it too, though it also hit Malaysian news.)