Collaborating with the Football Community to Promote Children’s Social-Emotional Skill Development and Create a Healthy, Happy Childhood

Group photo at media briefing (from left to right):
Renowned Hong Kong football coach Kenneth Kwok Ka-lok, the Football Association of Hong Kong, China Chief Executive Officer Tam Chau Long, Joaquin, Save the Children Hong Kong Chairman Paul Kennedy,
Save the Children Hong Kong CEO Carol Szeto and Sham Shui Po Football Club’s player Tai Ting Hong

Save the Children Hong Kong announces the launch of its Play to Thrive Programme in June 2023. The three-year initiative is organised by Save the Children Hong Kong, with support from Football Association of Hong Kong China and other community-based NGOs and football clubs.

Despite Hong Kong being a highly developed city, the well-being of some of its children lags behind those in some low and middle-income countries. As a result of the pandemic, children have also had less exercise and normal social interaction, leading to increases in anxiety and depression amongst Hong Kong’s children – specifically amongst the most disadvantaged.

Save the Children Hong Kong has always prioritised the interests and welfare of children, striving to provide a safe, healthy, and protected environment for their growth. Drawing upon Save The Children’s international project experiences, the Play to Thrive Programme uses football as a platform to teach essential social-emotional skills such as empathy, relationship building, and coping with difficulties, promoting their overall well-being.

To further promote the “Play to Thrive” programme, Save the Children Hong Kong will host the Inspire Cup 7-a-side mixed charity football match on 16 June, 2023 (Friday). The event aims to raise public awareness of children’s mental well-being while raising funds for the “Play to Thrive” programme. From now until 2 June, individuals from all walks of life are invited to register for the competition through the event website (, using the power of football to help disadvantaged children discover their potential and build life skills while enhancing their physical and mental well-being.

Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong, said, “We believe that every child has the right to a healthy, safe growing environment. The Play to Thrive Programme incorporates the development of social-emotional skills into football coaching, it enhances children’s development, and promotes child safeguarding and positive parenting. This comprehensive approach creates a safe space for children to thrive through sports activities, unleashing their full potential.”

Renowned Hong Kong football coach Kenneth Kwok Ka-lok stated: “Football is not only a sport, but also a platform for children to learn teamwork, build self-confidence, and develop resilience. Through the Play to Thrive Programme, we hope to help more children discover their potential, allowing them to not only enjoy the fun of sports on the football field, but also to progress and grow in life with joy and confidence.”

The Programme’s football training sessions are based on Save the Children’s global curricula, and adapted to Hong Kong’s context and practices. At least 40 professionally qualified football coaches will receive training this year to ensure the seamless integration of both social emotional skills and football training for children. They will also receive Child Safeguarding training from Save the Children Hong Kong.

The Programme also emphasises parental involvement, inviting them to participate in some of the football training sessions and the Heart to Heart Parent-Child Programme, fostering positive thinking and appropriate approaches to discipline in child-rearing.

The three-year programme will be carried out in phases for Hong Kong children aged 6 to 8 and 9 to 12, integrating social-emotional elements with football training. In 2023, Save the Children Hong Kong will launch eight football training sessions in Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai, with an estimated reach of over 200 children. Annual children’s football competitions will also be organised to showcase their progress.

The Programme will be further expanded to additional districts over three years, with approximately 1,100 children completing the course, supporting their social-emotional development.

Save the Children Hong Kong is committed to helping every child discover their potential and grow up healthy and happy, through its various services. It also encourages parents, the public, and other stakeholders to actively participate and join hands in promoting children’s issues and their mental health and wellbeing.

For more information about the “Play to Thrive” programme and the Inspire Cup 7-a-side mixed charity football match, please visit the event website at