Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Disabled volleyball begins

Disabled volleyball begins

Disabled volleyball begins

diable.jpg
diable.jpg

Eight teams of land mine and polio victims will kick-start the nation's first disabled

National Volleyball League on July 6, competing not only for the national title but

for the chance to represent Cambodia in South Korea later in the year.

Disabled volleyball players line up in their new uniforms.

The league is an initiative of Veterans International (VI) Cambodia Sports for Life

program.

Advisor Christopher Minko said the aim was to establish disabled volleyball as Cambodia's

premier spectator sport.

"What we are doing out of the tragedy of land mines is making something very

positive via sport," he said. "It is rebuilding [the players'] self-esteem

and they are role models now for the disabled people in Cambodia."

Over 200,000 people around the country have a disability, according to the Disability

Action Council. VI said that every Khmer family either has a member who is disabled

or knows a disabled person.

Perhaps because of this high rate the country has a very strong record in disabled

volleyball. The national team is currently ranked fourth in the world and competed

at the Sydney paralympics and in Slovakia in 2001.

The league is being promoted as a breeding ground for the creation of a world number

one team, as a new national side of 12 athletes will be picked at its conclusion

in late July.

"The blunt reality is I doubt whether an able-bodied Cambodian will ever win

gold at an international standard, but disabled athletes are already winning gold,"

said VI's Minko.

"I firmly believe that Cambodia can become one of the leading nations in disability

sport in Asia and also in the world," said Minko. "We expect the volleyball

team to be number one in Asia by October and number one in the world by the world

cup in 2004. It is an attainable objective."

The games are played to international regulations and will be held at the Kien Khleang

Rehabilitation Center in Phnom Penh. Each of the five provincial and three city-based

teams has a salaried coach and two ex-national team members.

Chuoy Kim Horn, 37, is the coach and captain of the Sunway Hotel team. A former soldier,

Horn lost his right leg in a landmine accident 12 years ago and has been playing

volleyball since 1994.

"The league will give the opportunity to disabled people to take part in volleyball

both nationally and internationally," he said. "I went to Sydney and Slovakia

with the national team and hope I will go to South Korea. My league team is hopeful

we will win the games but all the teams are strong."

Minko said that disabled volleyball had huge benefit for society and stressed that

the games would be open to the public.

"It is a team sport which has a strong unifying factor particularly among old

foes," he said. "We have ex-Khmer Rouge child soldiers, ex-loyalist soldiers

and ex-CPP soldiers all mixed together and they have transcended that."

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