When Ahmed Khan retires in three years’ time, he plans to make Ipoh his new base and travel all over the country in a car with his friend, a retired national footballer. The Founder-cum-Chief Executive Officer for Action Sports Foundation, a sports charity organisation based in Hong Kong, will celebrate his sixtieth birthday next year. He said, “I plan to build a home in Ipoh because the city reminds me of Hong Kong in the 1960s. During one of our holidays here where we drove to Cameron Highlands, my wife asked if we could extend our vacation and not return to Hong Kong! I thought she was joking but she wasn’t. Her suggestion got me thinking. So, why not?”
A hockey player back in Hong Kong who had featured in the country’s Hockey Premier League at the peak of his sporting career, Khan has always wanted to give back to the community where he grew up in. After sponsoring and supporting children in the poorer section of Jordan in Kowloon on a personal basis for a few years, Khan established his foundation upon the suggestion of a friend. These children are Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities, just like he is, with a Pakistani father.
Khan explained, “These children are from such impoverished backgrounds that their parents could ill afford to support extra curricular activities. This is where Action Sports Foundation come in. We are in the midst of building Shaheen Hockey Academy where we provide free after-school activities. On top of this, we also train these children to be hockey players through our Shaheen Sports Club as well as support hockey umpires and coaches by sponsoring them for overseas stints to gain international exposure.”
Khan’s contribution to Hong Kong’s ethnic minority has been rewarded with a Chief Executive’s Commendation for Community Service.
One thing led to another, Action Sports Foundation sponsorship is not only within Hong Kong but its reach has expanded to India, Cambodia, Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia.
In Ipoh, the foundation supports Ipoh Lads, Ipoh 30/50 and Ipoh Bug, mainly for children’s hockey and football programmes. “Seeing children enjoy themselves in sports puts a smile on my face. It is my hope that more Malaysian parents allow their children to continue playing sports as they grow older. No doubt, academics are important but sport is a life-long education where they learn respect and discipline. It is a link to the future. As sports promote good health, medical expenses are reduced. Did you know that recently, within weeks, more than twenty school children in Hong Kong committed suicide due to study pressure? Playing sports can alleviate this pressure.
“Hockey is a sport that can be very violent. Imagine 22 people with sticks on the field. Therefore, discipline has to be instilled and the spirit of sportsmanship upheld. With these in place, the field is then a stage for the players to display their skills and talent.
“Ipoh has excellent sporting facilities and it is a pity that they are not fully utilised. I have brought Shaheen Sports Club to Ipoh three times to play with local teams. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we have made Ipoh our annual destination for our summer ‘away’ games.
“Ipoh is also where the Action Sports Foundation Cup will be hosted. The first tournament was held in 2014 and it saw a thousand children from local hockey clubs and schools come together for two days to compete. This year, we plan to invite children from Thailand and Singapore as well. It will be a lot bigger and I am excited for the kids,” Khan added.
Note: An edited version of this article [Empowering Youth Through Sports] was published on 4th June, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.