The charitable arm of Spanish football giants Real Madrid is to play a unique and important role in Cambodia to ensure the social integration of children with disabilities through the powerful medium of sport.
The Real Madrid Foundation is the main force behind the opening in Battambang – in March – of the first-of-its-kind social and sports school at an international level that will cater to the needs of youngsters with physical disabilities. The school will have two main bases in Battambang province, helping all 169 boys and girls, 59 of whom are physically handicapped, in the 6 to 17 age group.
Real Madrid is one of the richest clubs in the world with a revenue of €549.5 million last year, retaining its top ranking for the tenth year in succession. Apart from its incredible footballing success, the club has also been recognised as a great benefactor, highlighted by its multiple social integration projects through the charitable work of its Real Madrid Foundation.
President of Real Madrid Florentino Perez and the Bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, Father “Kike” Enrique Figerado, a Spaniard serving in Cambodia since 1991, signed the partnership fagreement last month between the Foundation and the NGO, Solidarity Help and Union Create Hope (SAUCE), paving the way for the creation of the school.
The foundation’s home partner SAUCE operates from Madrid focusing its effort in creating social support projects that are carried out by the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, which runs both the Arruppe Karuna Welcome Center for the Disabled and the La Paloma Center in Cambodia’s second biggest city.
“We have been striving hard to create an inclusive society, and to be able to provide these students a great opportunity to better their lives through sports is a remarkable step forward,” noted Father Kike.
“Together we will transform lives. What makes this project special is that we encourage both children with disabilities and the non-disabled to practise sports together, so they can overcome any barrier keeping them away from integration
“I was very happy to see Tennis Cambodia bring the ITF Wheelchair program to our Prefecture and deliver quality wheelchairs to our players last month. Now we have the Real Madrid Foundation coming in a big way in creating this school,” he said.
‘Social integration’ key
One of RMF’s social projects coaches, Victor De Arce, was in Battambang for the launch of the project. He conducted a three-day intensive course to set in motion a football program that is set to get stronger and bigger.
“We have indeed started an inspiring project with RMF,” he said.
It is their first supported project in Cambodia. The academy now has 46 disabled children who practise sports on a regular basis.
Volunteer and project coordinator at the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, Federico Barreras Villarreal added: “Besides football and sport promoted by RMF, they also practise tennis twice a week.
“The main objective of the project is to ensure social integration of children with physical disabilities. So 39 boys and girls who come from Lidy Home, a shelter house for children who have difficulties studying, will also attend sports sessions at the Arrupe Karuna.
“Arrupe Karuna will continue to take care of the students’ education and nutrition and their good health by involving them in sports and the RMF will also be supporting the Center Tahen Metta Karuna, which is a shelter home for 62 children in a vulnerable situation living in Tahen village,’’ Federico Villarreal continued.
The RMF is aiming to share the positive values embraced in sport, like companionship and solidarity, with boys and girls who are vulnerable either through their disability or extreme poverty.
While the Foundation has now firmly established its presence in Cambodia, three coaches from the Foundation, Pablo Gomez Revenga, Javier Garcia Torres and Ivan Garcia Sacristan, representing the corporate social responsibility side of the club, had conducted a kids and coaches clinic in Phnom Penh back in November 2012 as part of the YKK ASAO Just for Kicks initiative.