While football mania of the Brazilian kind is sweeping the globe, Phnom Penh was basking in its own World Cup glory at the Mekong Pitch on Saturday involving players who are deaf and hearing impaired.
Organised by international children’s charity Indochina Starfish Foundation, the Barclays-sponsored First World Cup for kids with these disabilities was a popular success with each of the 17 teams from four provinces assuming the identity of a country represented in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The event was overseen by Nigel Merritt of the Hong Kong Football Club, who will spend a few more days in Phnom Penh building the capacity of ISF’s football coaches and improving their Sports for All Abilities program.
Apart from the competitive element, the day also saw activities and games for players with learning disabilities. The ISF coaches ran a three-hour fun and interactive session that was followed by a few friendly matches.
These initiatives were funded by the FIFA Football for Hope (FFH) program, which awarded ISF $20,000 to run activities throughout 2014.
“The Football Federation of Cambodia are proud to partner with ISF, who lead the way in the provision of grassroots sports for disadvantaged players,” FFC spokesman May Tola said in his address on Saturday.
“Since the beginning of the program for deaf and hearing impaired players, the number of players as well as their skill and ability level has significantly increased thanks to ISF’s ongoing work.”
In his remarks, ISF football progam manager Yin Samedy said they could double the activities for players in this program thanks to FFH funding this year.
On the pitch there was some cheer for countries that had already crashed out at the group stage of the World Cup, such as England and Italy, a message of goodwill for France and an ominous warning for Brazil.
The girls from Krousar Thmey Phnom Penh, ensured that England beat Brazil (Krousar Thmey Battambang) 3-0 in the final.
Not to be left behind, the boys from Krousar Thmey Phnom Penh, draped in French colours, beat their counterparts from Battambang, playing as Italy, 4-1.
How desperately France would have wished for this scoreline in the 2006 World Cup final in Germany. At least there was no Zinedine Zidane head butt.