Putting an index finger on his lips as a shush sign before giving instructions for a football training, Tith Sovannara, 23, stood among a group of children in a school compound, telling them to pass the ball to their female counterparts before attempting to score a goal.
“Each team must have female and male members. Before striking the ball into the opponents’ goal, each female and male member must pass it to each other first."
“A male cannot pass the ball to another male to score a goal,” said Sovannara, who currently lives in a temporary shelter in the Boeung Kak area, notorious for gambling and drugs."
The team is part of the “Play to Progress” project Sovannara created earlier this year. The project aims to raise awareness of social issues and promote gender equality in sports among children living in communities that rarely have an opportunity to play sports.
A compulsive gambler turned sports enthusiast, Sovannara said: “I love football but it is not more important than giving an opportunity to poor children to develop themselves.
“That’s my dream. Sport is a vehicle that takes me to success. Sport is an effective choice for me and now it is also effective for others.”
Starting from scratch with his own scarce resources and assistance from friends, this player in a semi-professional team that just won the KMH Champions League, has been chosen as a candidate to compete in the 10th Beyond Sport Foundation in New York on September 12-13.
As the first ever Cambodian candidate among 400 others from 33 countries, Sovannara says: “It is a great success that these children understand and develop themselves.
“I still continue with my daily work as usual, but I hope to continue developing the “Play to Progress” project. I am proud to have been selected to participate in the international competition.”
Under the theme “Promoting Health and Well-being through Inclusive Sports, “Play to Progress”, which has been in operation for six months, has conducted six training courses in Kampot, Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces and Phnom Penh.
Aiming to reach out to more underprivileged children across the country, Sovannara says: “There are many ways philanthropists can help us.
“If you know of any communities in any provinces where children can’t afford football kits, I will be more than willing to help. Everyone can help with the finance and be a volunteer in the program via www.facebook.com/playtoprogess”.
Beyond Sport Foundation is a charity that celebrates, supports, raises awareness and provides funding for institutions using sports to help make the UN Sustainable Development Goal a reality.