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Having a ball

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Gary Hodder with some of Siem Reap’s youngsters at Sangkheum Centre.

Kicking off in mid-January, the first Globalteer Siem Reap Junior Football league will run for 10 weeks, with teams from eight different centres and schools competing in under-11, under-14 and under-17 age groups.

Organised by English coach and physical education teacher Gary Hodder, the tournament will take place at Bakeng Sports Field every Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 5pm. Hodder, 43, arrived in Siem Reap only four weeks ago, and in that short space of time has amassed the teams, the pitches, equipment and most of the finances necessary to stage the event.

Armed with only an idea, Hodder expected scepticism or reluctance, but “people have been very supportive,” he says. Sponsorship and other assistance have already been forthcoming from UK NGO Globalteer and principal sponsors The Warehouse, Hope for Cambodia, The Iron Workshop, Camp Sangamon in the United States, The Centre for Khmer Studies, and some private individuals.

“I thought the toughest part would be getting some money for it, but people have stepped forward already,” said the quietly enthusiastic Englishman.

The idea is that the tournament will be repeated on a larger scale every year and eventually be open to all public schools and centres. Each team is required to nominate a coach and a trainer, who Hodder hopes to instruct in order to prepare them to take over the running of the tournament in two or three years.

Hodder is still looking for financial support to cover the costs of transporting the teams to the playing grounds, as well as, hopefully, matching T-shirts for the players.

“This is definitely not a win-at-all-costs thing. Sport is important for teaching children discipline, respect and cooperation. It’s all about participation,” says Hodder. Anyone interested in supporting the league can contact Gary on 099 630 730 or through The Warehouse.

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