The five-player-strong Cambodian team of teenage hopefuls accompanied by head coach Jimmy Campbell will leave for Scotland on Friday to take a shot at the 2016 Homeless World Cup being staged in Glasgow’s famous George Square from July 10-16.
This is Cambodia’s ninth mission to this unique and pioneering event, which uses the power of football to fight homelessness and help youngsters build their self esteem and change their lives for the better.
In a heartwarming story of success, Men Monira, who played in the 2009 World Cup, has since gone on to play for high-flying Metfone C-League side Svay Rieng as a professional.
The Cambodian side, ranked 37th, is wholly managed by the non-profit Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA), and its founder, Australia-based Irishman Paraic Grogan. He will also travel to Glasgow along with local HFCA coordinator Chao Vibol.
Since the country’s debut at Melbourne in 2008, Cambodian teams have been involved in all the subsequent editions in Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Mexico City, Poznan, Santiago and Amsterdam.Scotsman Jimmy Campbell has been behind each of these journeys, from the team’s long selection process, to its preparation and its exploits on the pitch.
The inaugural HWC, held in the Austrian city of Graz in 2003, had only 18 nations as participants, but 13 years later that number has grown to 64 teams from 53 countries, including 16 women’s teams in a pool of players that exceeds 500.
Around 100,000 spectators are expected to watch the HWC at the week-long event, which organisers claim will be “the most inspiring place on the planet”.A notable feature this year is that every game can be seen live on YouTube. Selected international outlets will also stream games via EverSport.
The Cambodian team is made up of Man Ramao, Long Sophearith, Roeng Narat, Chan Minea and Keo Sang, who will also keep goal.
While Narat and Sang are 16 years old, the other three members are in their late teens, making it one of the youngest but perhaps the strongest ever fielded by Cambodia.
In the groupings announced last week, Cambodia were drawn in the company of reigning champions Mexico, Argentina, India, Indonesia and Burkina Faso. In the opening fixture on Sunday, Cambodia will face Burkina Faso.
One of the country’s leading Mobile operators, Smart, has come forward as the gold primary sponsors of the team, with Credit Bureau Cambodia and Collingwood Rotary chipping in as bronze sponsors.
“The HFCA is happy that Smart have stepped up their involvement as our leading sponsors. They co-sponsored the team from 2011-14,” HFCA founder Grogan told the Post yesterday.
“The selection process for this event began as early as January this year. After several stages of elimination, Jimmy Campbell finalised the team. We face tough teams like Mexico and Argentina, but our aim is to win at least half of the dozen or so matches we will play.”
The HWC follows FIFA-based rules, but matches are often played on much smaller pitches than normal, close in size to a futsal pitch. The games last 14 minutes – two halves of seven minutes each. Each team has four players on the pitch including the goalkeeper and there is no limit to substitutions.