Happy Football Cambodia Australia founder Paraic Grogan (second right) sits with head coach Jiimmy Campbell (second left) and former Homeless World Cup players Sam Yi (left) and Men Monira at Olympic Stadium on Sunday. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN
Melbourne based Irishman Paraic Grogan, who founded the NGO Happy Football Cambodia Australia six years ago to make a difference to the lives of homeless boys and girls through the beautiful game, voiced his satisfaction with the project and its progress during a recent visit to the Kingdom.
“I am quite pleased with the way it is going,” he told The Post on Sunday whilst watching a Metfone C-League match at Olympic Stadium.
“We have five Cambodian partners and for the first time we have a corporate sponsor in Smart Mobile for the 2011 Paris Homeless World Cup in August. We have already raised US$5,500 locally and hope to reach $10,000.
“For the first time we have a new partner in Kampong Thom province. I would like to see more and more provinces join this project,” he said.
Grogan explained how the HFCA evolved from his passion for the sport.
“I first came to Cambodia in 2003 as a casual visitor. I joined a couple of my friends to open the Happy School, which is going great eight years on,” he said.
“In 2005, we started the HFCA in a modest way. I love football and I thought why not use football to help the underprivileged youth. I am happy that it has steadily grown.”
The Irishman revealed that the organisation now trains nearly 80 boys and girls in various age groups in their junior program, and noted that their annual commitment to sending a new team to each Homeless World Cup “has changed many lives.”
“I hope for the  Homeless World Cup in Mexico we have more corporate involvement and more Cambodian partners. Our aim is to enlarge this project in a way that is sustainable,” said Grogan.
The HFCA boss feels that the next big step would be to negotiate with local top league clubs to explore the possibilities of some of the Homeless World Cup squad members being enrolled or at least given a trial after the tournament.
“Two players who played in the Milan Homeless World Cup [in 2009] have already been contracted by the Army team [National Defence Ministry],” he said, adding that the HFCA would help sponsor candidates who attain basic educational requirements to attend licenced coaching programmes run by the Football Federation of Cambodia.
According to HFCA head coach Jimmy Campbell, the organisation has already created a pathway for all those players who were part of the Homeless World Cup teams in the past.
“We have already employed 12 of them. We coach some of the players to be coaches themselves,” said Campbell.
The 2011 Homeless World Cup, to be staged at the Champs de Mars in Paris from August 21-28, will be the HFCA’s fourth tournament after trips to Melbourne, Milan and Rio.