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Homeless World Cup team fly out to Rio

Team Cambodia’s goodwill mission to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro for the 2010 Homeless World Cup takes flight today. The six-member Happy Football Cambodia-Australia team, led by head coach Jimmy Campbell, departs from Phnom Penh today for street soccer’s biggest carnival involving 64 countries at the famed Copacabana Beach from September 19 to 26.

“It’s more a cause than a competition and we are determined to do our best,” said Campbell, a former Scottish professional who took the Kingdom’s team to the Italian city of Milan for last year’s edition.

“It is a life changing experience for these players, some of whom have never gone out of Phnom Penh, let alone to another country. It is as exciting for them as it is for me to be in the home of street soccer,” he added during a press conference yesterday.

“It is beyond their wildest dreams to be involved in an event like this and I have seen players who were scared as kittens, afraid to look at some one in the eye; totally shy and withdrawn in their shells completely change overnight. That’s how powerful an influence this event can be.

“We are not going their to win the [Homeless] World Cup. We are there to experience the power of football to change lives and how it can tackle social issues like homelessness. We would be happy with whatever positives come out this.”

HFCA Country Manager Vibol Chao said it was a great honour for Cambodia to participate in an event of this magnitude and importance. “The players are so excited to be playing in another continent,” he said. “Some of them are nervous but overall they are raring to go.”

Campbell was thankful that a collection of small sponsors had helped fund the trip in the absence of a committed major sponsor. “We had to deal with some logistical concerns, like obtaining Brazilian visas in time for the team, and to tie up some financial loose ends. But all in all, everything has fallen in place at the right time for us to focus on our job.”

The coach also acknowledged the involvement of players with past Homeless World Cup experience. “We had three players from that [2009] Milan trip train with us, and the interaction of these players with freshers was indeed very useful,” he said.

A field of twenty prospective players at the start of the year was whittled down to the selected six.

“These players have been going through training sessions once a week on Sunday mornings for nearly three months now,” said Campbell.

The Cambodian team is expected to reach Rio on Saturday in time for the main draw at a specially built 5,000 capacity stadium on the Copacabana beach.

Homeless World Cup Facts

  • Games feature two 7-minute halves with a minute break in between.
  • The pitch is 22 by 16 metres, with 4-metre wide goals that are 1.30 metres high.
  • The artificial turf pitch is surrounded by 1.10-metre high boarding, which can be used to bounce the ball off.
  • Size 5 footballs will be used to play the street soccer format games.
  • For the first time, 12 national women’s teams will participate in a Women’s Cup this year.
  • English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur have renewed their sponsorship agreement with Team India for this year’s event.
  • Arsenal’s longest serving manager, Arsene Wenger, has been named as the president of next year’s 2011 Homeless World Cup organising committee to be held in Paris.
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