Cambodia’s Homeless World Cup campaign in Glasgow ended with a trophy and the player of the tournament award on Saturday.
“Our players, and in particular our captain Chan Minea, were superb in the final against Sweden, and Minea scored four goals in a famous 8-2 victory,” team manager Paraic Grogan said of his side’s achievements. “Huge credit must go to our coaching staff Jimmy Campbell and Chao Vibol for preparing the team so well.
“At the final award ceremony of the Homeless World Cup, Minea’s amazing efforts were rewarded by winning male player of the tournament. We are so proud of his efforts”.
Minea said of his personal award: “To be voted best player of the Homeless World Cup is the most amazing moment of my life. I can’t believe I won it.
“I want to dedicate this trophy to my teammates and my coaches without them I would not have won. Also this award is for my family back home and for the people of Cambodia.”
Mexico were crowned champions in both the men’s and women’s events in a repeat of their double at last year’s event in Amsterdam.
Living up to manager Paraic Grogan’s predictions, the Khmer youngsters improved as they adapted to playing in the Scottish conditions. Victories against Slovenia and Greece placed Cambodia in the fifth-tier Globe competition.
A quarterfinal victory on penalties against the Dutch the following day sent them forward to the semis, where they defeated the USA 5-3.
The final saw Cambodia play Sweden, and the team produced their finest display, winning 8-2 to take home the Globe trophy.
It was a tremendous achievement for a team playing in new and difficult conditions against physically bigger and stronger teams.
The Cambodian team were very popular with the Scottish crowd. Their diminutive stature had given them natural underdog status and their ever smiling attitude was endearing even in this most friendly of events.
Captain Minea and his teammates even featured in a short film shown on Scottish TV telling their story.
For the hosts Scotland, there was nothing to play for but pride. The women finished a highly respectable fourth in the main event.
For the men it was the chance of a lifetime as the Homeless World Cup threw up a version of the world football’s oldest international fixture – Scotland versus England.
The Scots recovered from a two-goal deficit to win 6-4. The crowd celebrated as if Scotland had won the World Cup and the players departed heroes.
The tournament was a great success with attendances totalling well over 100,000, and the aim of the tournament to show the homeless in a positive light had been achieved.
And not more so than when Chile had to call on Scotland’s reserve goalkeeper Grant Cameron because of an injury to their own. It was a wonderful to see him stand hand on heart with his adopted countrymen as the Chilean anthem played.
And the city of Glasgow took the event to their hearts. Stories circulated of players staying at the city’s Caledonian University taking part in an international karaoke and dance-off.
USA coach Peter Fink recounted taking his side to a bar where the owner showed his appreciation of their efforts by buying the whole team pizza.
Another regular at games was the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon. She summed things up very well by saying: “It is as a very special event. To have it here in Glasgow is wonderful, we’re very proud of it.”
The role of the tournament was to raise awareness of homelessness and how it is possible to rebuild lives and inspire people, and to that end it succeeded wonderfully.
Even the ball was made by Bala Sport, a Pakistani fair trade project that provides clean water and protects against worker exploitation.
The inspirational story of Indonesian goalkeeper Eman Sulaemen was a particularly standout tale of overcoming adversity. Despite being born with no feet, he was was one of the stars of the tournament.
His outstanding performances helped his nation to the quarterfinals of the main event, where they lost 6-2 to eventual champions Mexico.
The 15th Homeless World Cup will take place next summer in Oslo, Norway.