A bunch of club level tennis players from Australia turned their passion for the game into an unforgettable 16-day cultural tour of Cambodia at the end of which yesterday, a unique relationship had been established between the six members of the New South Wales-based Umina Tennis and Sporting Club and local players.
Led by Umina president Neil Packer, a level two coach with Tennis Australia, the visiting team was made up of retired police inspector Terry Fischer, jeweller Phil Allota, grocery assistant Rhett Websdale, retired electrician John Barker and painter and decorator Peter Doherty.
“Tennis is a common thread which is binding us all, and we are proud to uphold the best Umina traditions of such exciting cultural exchanges with tennis as a medium,” Packer told the Post after a final round of friendlies against members of the Devenco Tennis Club at the Villa Romonea court in Kep on Saturday.
“Though we come from different backgrounds and walks of life, tennis has brought us together on this trip, and for each one of us it has been an amazing experience in exploring this wonderful country while enjoying the game we are so passionate about in our lives. Some of them don’t want to go back.
“This was not about winning or losing. It wasn’t even about how well or badly we played. What was important to all of us is that we played tennis, we enjoyed it and we had this great opportunity to know the people, traditions and the cultural riches.”
The group praised the organisational support extended by the Tennis Federation of Cambodia and its secretary- general Tep Rithivit.
“We played against several players in Phnom Penh and then we made a trip to Angkor Wat which was very exciting. We travelled to Kep and had another round of tennis and the local hospitality was excellent,” Terry Fisher told the Post.
One of Kep’s well-known tennis players, Jeroen van Vliet, hosted the group to lunch at his popular Breezes restaurant after sweating it out on the court playing against some of the visitors.
The Umina members welcomed with great enthusiasm the prospects of a team of club level players from Cambodia visiting Australia in the near future.
Before they left Kep for Phnom Penh ahead of their return home, the group visited two orphanages where the TFC is currently running a successful junior tennis program. Packer and his team-mates presented to the tennis- playing kids shirts and caps provided by Tennis Australia along with two portable nets.
“This visit by Neil Packer and his fellow Umina members could not have come at a better time when we are set to launch a massive tennis-for-all project. It just shows that TFC is for players at every level,” Tep Rithivit told the Post.