Jong Ajax’s first day in Hong Kong on Thursday was partly spent doing a clinic for head sponsor AEGON. At the Hong Kong Football Club, which is the location of the International Soccer Sevens in which Jong Ajax is participating this weekend, coach Piet Huistra and his players gave football lessons to some children.
Before the International Soccer Sevens kicks off this weekend, Ajax organised a clinic on Thursday for local clients and relations of AEGON’s Hong Kong branch. Hong Kong is full of expats, which was reflected in the clinic’s attendees. In a mix of Dutch, but mostly English, instructions, the sixty invited children – who had, among others, Australian, German and French roots – participated in Ajax-school exercises, more than 10.000 kilometres away from Amsterdam.
“Kees, you have a competitor, Isi grabs everything with his hands”, comments Deniz Aslan towards keeper Kees Heemskerk. The clinic’s atmosphere was relaxed, and, to Huistra’s pleasure, the day was clearly enjoyed by the participants, as well as the Ajax players. “Goed zo” and ‘well done” were heard regularly coming from Ajax’s promised ones. A young participant, wearing Chelsea shorts and an Ajax shirt, said: “Chelsea is my favourite club, but Ajax has the best youth training.” He then went on to list the names Van der Vaart, Van Basten, Bergkamp and Kluivert.
Among Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, a surprisingly large amount of space is dedicated to sport. Happy Valley forms a beautiful and vast sports complex, right in the heart of the busy metropolis. This green centre, with many sports facilities, is a true oasis of leisure and sport. From snooker to hockey, and cricket; many sports with typically British origins can be found here. Hong Kong’s colonial past is clearly present.
HKFC’s home base is also in Happy Valley, where tradition is very important. For example, making phone calls inside is strictly forbidden, with a sanction of at least 200 Hong Kong dollars. This contributes to the special atmosphere, which is somewhat reminiscent of Wimbledon.
In addition to Soccer Sevens Chairman Tony Bratsanos, Bert-Jaap Brons was also a spectator at the clinic. Brons is responsible for AEGON’s Asian business. “It’s very important for Ajax to participate in this weekend’s Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong. I’m bringing many business relations and partners to the tournament. Also, this clinic gives the kids a great opportunity to play. Some of them haven’t slept a wink in two nights, because Ajax is here today.”
Brons continues: “Ajax’s name recognition among the youth in Hong Kong and Western expats is very high. Asians automatically link Ajax to technical and attacking football, and of course, to their world famous youth development.” He would very much like to see a follow up visit in the future from (Jong) Ajax to Asia. “China (AEGON-CNOOC), India (AEGON Religare) and Japan (AEGON Sony Life Insurance) are important growth markets for AEGON. Ajax’s world renowned name can certainly help.”