"All of us come from different backgrounds, so we learn how to respect one another. Also, even if you think the opponent is not good, you should not look down on them because out there on the field, everyone is trying their best."
- Gordon Hoon, secondary school student and Delta League player
As a police officer, Xie Zhirong always performs his duties diligently, ensuring that crime is kept off the streets and law and order is maintained in the country.
But at times, he switches his attention from police uniforms to football jerseys instead, because Zhirong is also a mentor to 15 youths who play in a football league known as the ‘Delta League’.
At first glance, the Delta League may seem like a typical football league where teams compete to find out who is the best team. However, there is a special reason behind its existence.
The Delta League was set up in 2011 to keep youths meaningfully occupied during the June and December school holidays, when incidences of idle youths roaming the streets and getting into trouble with the law tend to increase.
A MENTOR’S IMPACT
Zhirong first started out as a photographer for the Delta League, which eventually led to him becoming a mentor to the youths.
“I noticed some of these youths did not have a proper coach guiding them, so I stepped in to provide some advice. I found that they put it to good use and were pretty appreciative of what I was doing for them. From that point on, I realised that this was actually something I could do to help them,” he shared.
Zhirong always makes sure to elaborate on the learning points of every game, so that his mentees can learn from these examples.
“We teach them about the importance of team spirit, and how to be graceful losers or humble winners. We teach them how they can overcome certain challenges if they work hard, so that they can eventually emerge as winners. Everything they experience in this league can be a learning point for them,” said Zhirong.
“These are lessons that are not only limited to the football field, but applicable to life in general as well.”
A MENTEE’S GRATITUDE
As a mentor, Zhirong constantly encourages and motivates those under his wings, as he hopes to inspire as many lives as he can – something which Gordon Hoon, one of Zhirong’s mentees, can attest to.
“What I like most about Zhirong is how he lets the weaker players play, so that they can try new experiences and challenges. He always encourages us to play our hearts out, and the results will show our hard work,” he said.
But one of the most valuable lessons that 16-year-old Gordon has gained from this experience was the importance of respecting others.
“All of us come from different backgrounds, so we learn how to respect one another. Also, even if you think the opponent is not good, you should not look down on them because out there on the field, everyone is trying their best,” he shared.
CHANGING LIVES THROUGH FOOTBALL
Zhirong described how some of the mentees face tough situations in their homes, as many of them come from complex and challenging family environments.
“The reality is, they do not receive much care and attention at home. The only reason they turn to crime is because they feel that material items can make up for the lack of attention from their parents,” he explained.
That is why the league seeks to change lives through football, by providing the perfect platform for youths to harness their talents, creativity and energy positively.
“In fact, one of the league’s key objectives is to provide participants with the opportunity to contribute back to society by spreading crime prevention messages to the members of the public. In this way, we hope to use this platform to touch these young lives and keep them out of harm’s way,” said Zhirong.
About The Delta League
Tote Board has been providing funding to the Delta League since 2014. Through its support for such programmes, the Board contributes towards inspiring our youths and building a more resilient community.