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Cambodians set to kick it at World Cup

EIGHT Cambodian teenagers will compete in a football tournament and cultural exchange in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup to highlight the need to eradicate land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) worldwide.

The team members, four girls and four boys aged 13 to 15 from Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin provinces, were selected by the organisation Spirit of Soccer and the Cambodian Football Federation to compete in the Football for Hope Festival in Johannesburg.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to be a part of the training,” said Rachel Haig, senior programme adviser for Spirit of Soccer in Cambodia.

“These kids have never been on a plane.... They have no idea where South Africa is, so we’re trying to mentally and culturally prepare them for this journey.”

Spirit of Soccer, an international NGO that uses football to educate children about the dangers of land mines in Cambodia and Iraq, was one of 32
organisations chosen to sponsor a team for the tournament.

Two of the Cambodian team members have relatives who have been victims of UXO accidents, and a third team member witnessed a UXO accident involving a neighbour.

Haig explained that the first week of the festival will involve cultural exchange activities during which the members of the 32 teams will meet to talk about the effects of land mines and about issues they face in their daily lives.

According to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMVIS), from January 2009 to January 2010 there were 257 mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties in Cambodia.

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