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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Grassroots projects impress FIFA Vice President Prince Ali

Grassroots projects impress FIFA Vice President Prince Ali

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FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin al Hussein talks to reporters during a press conference yesterday at Raffles Hotel. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post

The Chairman of the Amman-based Asian Football Development Project and FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin al Hussein ended his third visit in three years to Cambodia yesterday with assurances of support to the Kingdom in realising its full football potential.

“Grassroots potential I see in Cambodia is very encouraging,” Prince Ali told a media conference at the Raffles Hotel yesterday, while summing up his three-day trip to Cambodia which included a visit on Monday to the AFDP-supported Mighty Girls project run by SALT Academy in Battambang.

Marking out grassroots development as a crucial issue, the Jordanian royal also sounded a cautionary note to

officials to consider the long term outlook rather than expect overnight results.

Describing Mighty Girls as an honourable project, Prince Ali said in his opening statement that he was “tremondously touched and impressed by the level they have”.

Lauding the efforts of SALT Academy Director Sam Schweingruber and his team, Prince Ali said such projects in women’s empowerment through football were worthy of being followed by others.

“We are proud and privileged to be recognised by the AFDP and we are grateful to his royal highness for this personal visit and support for our project which will make life better for nearly 500 women,” said Schweingruber.

The FIFA Vice President also singled out for praise one of the country’s leading football clubs, Phnom Penh Crown, and its president Rithy Samnang in setting up several youth development initiatives, the latest being the introduction of the Cambodian Football Development League which kicked of on Sunday in association with several leading clubs.

Responding to a question from the Post as to how concerned he was over the credibility crisis surrounding the game and FIFA following the match-fixing scandal, Prince Ali was frank bordering direct.

“These are serious issues we cannot turn away from. They have to be tackled in an open and transparent way. It is not going to be a smooth ride. It will be bumpy,” he said.

Within the realms of international football, representing Asia as Vice President gives the continent a big voice in the world’s governing body and that explains Prince Ali’s drive to reinvigorate and give new meaning and direction to this representation for the 46 member associations.

The spirit behind a journey of this nature, as Prince Ali put it, is to tell the world “we are Asia, taking our place”.

None was more pleased with this high profile visit than the Football Federation of Cambodia. FFC Vice President Khiev Sameth, who was present at the media conference, conveyed to Prince Ali the country’s deep-felt gratitude.

To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at hirimanju@yahoo.com

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