he Cambodian National Volleyball League players and their advisor, Chris Minko, at Phnom Penh Airport on October 7 on their way to the Volleyball World Cup for disabled players in Greece from October 11 to 19.
The Cambodian National Volleyball League team flew to Greece on October 7 to compete
in the Volleyball World Cup against other physically handicapped squads from Germany,
Slovakia, Greece, the United States and Poland. A "friendship match" will
be held in Berlin after the tournament in October against members of the German parliament.
"The trip is to increase awareness of landmine problems in Cambodia," said
the German Ambassador to Cambodia, Helmut Ohlraun, about the physically disabled
team. "The team not only represents sportsmen, they increase awareness about
the landmine problem." The German government donated $7,000 to the team this
The Cambod-ian national team, ranked first among ASEAN nations, will make its sixth
international appearance after competing in Slovakia, Australia, Thailand, Singapore
and Korea since 2002. It took the gold medal in an Asia Pacific regional competition
Although the team is Cambodia's only international-caliber volleyball team, it is
unusual in another way. All of the players are missing limbs or have disabilities
due to land mines, bullet wounds and other injuries.
But they consider themselves volleyball players first and disabled athletes second.
Keam Sokha, 40, who is a setter for the team, said the sport is a way to "change
people's perspective about handicaps". He stepped on a landmine in 1984 and
now wears a plastic prosthetic leg. But that has not stopped him from excelling at
"I train hard every day," he said.
Yim Vanna, 36, who is from Kandal province and has played volleyball since 1988,
said that he has won the regard of people who might have otherwise thought less of
"Normally other people look down on disabled people," he said. "Being
on a national team, people respect me."
The players receive between $30 and $60 a month, which includes transportation and
housing before competitions. They use advanced prosthetics such as hinged legs and
rubber feet to perform the complex maneuvers of the game. The team trains six days
a week for four hours each day at the Kien Klaeng National Rehabilitation Center
near Phnom Penh.
The league's director, Chlok Chamroeun, 23, is a graduate of the National Institute
of Management in Phnom Penh. She manages the team and makes sure they are well-equipped
"I feel very happy and proud to help the disabled," she said. "When
they get together, they have fun and forget about their disability."
The server prepares to send the ball over the net at the Kien Klaeng National Rehabilitation Center near Phnom Penh where the tournament was held.
Chris Minko, 48, an Australian who advises the league, said he is enthusiastic about
working with the players and the volleyball program.
"They are excellent ambassadors for Cambodia," he said. "The volleyball
players give others hope."
The first incarnation of the team was the Veterans International Cambodian Disabled
Volleyball Team in August 2002. It became an independent league on October 1 of this
year. Their goal is to become the Cambodian National Volleyball Federation by the
end of 2005 and enter the sport's international body for disabled players.
The team draws players from all over Cambodia during an annual tournament for handicapped
players held near Phnom Penh. The Royal Government of Cambodia endorses the league
along with a host of sponsors, including Handicap International Belgium, the Japanese
and German governments and a number of businesses.
One fundraiser, Mark Duncan, an officer in the Hong Kong Police Force, plans to climb
seven of the highest mountains on every continent to support the team. He donated
$20,000 for the team's trip to Greece and supports an organization called Climb for
a Landmine Free World. Keam Sokha, a landmine amputee and one of the players, will
also accompany Duncan on some of his ascents in 2004 and 2005.
The German government sent a university coach, Kevan Naylor, 25, to train the league
in August and he will complete his tenure following the tour in Berlin. He said that
disabled players were as good as any he had taught before.
"I trained them like I trained able players," he said.
On October 23, the league will go to Berlin and play against the German members of
parliament after a promotional tour through Germany.
Thomas Gebauer, the director of a German anti-landmine NGO, has helped organize the
match. He said "there could not be better representatives".
"The team shows to the world that reintegration of landmine victims into society
is not only possible, but that landmine victims can also play an important role in
the recovery of peace and the society itself," he said.
A player goes for a spike.
Yi Veasna, secretary general for the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia, came
to Phnom Penh International Airport on October 7 to see the team off for Greece.
"I think that the team is very happy," he said. "I see them smiling,
and they have good expectations. The game will bring friendship, solidarity and will
raise awareness for the rehabilitation sector."