In June 2005 Operation Breakthrough commenced its football programme with a Summer Soccer School. Seven Police Districts took part and over 100 boys received professional coaching every Saturday afternoon throughout the holidays at King George V School playing fields. The scheme was so well received that the training sessions became a permanent fixture and were re-scheduled to tie in with school term times.
In recent years, teams have competed against adult teams in local competitions such as the Yau Yee League annual six-a-side and International 9-a-side tournaments, and has also enjoyed coaching sessions with UK Championship side, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool FC legend Ian Rush.
Three Police Districts are now involved in the programme bringing youths at risk from Mong Kok, Sham Shui Po and Wong Tai Sin, while social workers from the Hong Kong Playground Association additionally recruit boys from Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O. The Boys and Girls Club Association of Hong Kong also assist the programme through their work with non-ethnic Chinese groups in Sham Shui Po and have recruited a number of these boys. Social workers from both groups attend training sessions each week to support and observe the progress of the boys.
While many of the boys are recruited from the Hong Kong Police Superintendent’s Discretion Scheme, an increasing number are recruited from social worker referrals, such as broken homes, and school referrals.
Personal costs of participants are negligible, as all football kit, coaching, transport, snacks and drinks are provided free of charge. Assistance is also given for the purchase of boots and shin pads to those players whose families face acute financial difficulties. Boys who show aptitude and wish to seek basic qualifications can be sponsored to take referee and coaching courses.
Sessions are held on Saturday afternoons weekly during the school year at King George V School, Kowloon, which provides pitch and changing facilities. Coaching is currently provided by professional coaches from the Chelsea FC Soccer School (Hong Kong) run by former Hong Kong international Leslie Santos. Volunteers from the Marine Police and the Police Districts in the programme mentor the boys during training sessions, and lend active assistance to the coaches with the training. Several of the boys, who have been with Breakthrough since the early days, are now also assisting the coaches and providing mentoring to new boys joining the scheme.