ASPECA orphans perform a special traditional monkey dance with a rugby ball during their rugby club ceremony. Photo Supplied
Enfants d’Asie, a local NGO which helps run Cambodia’s second largest rugby academy ASPECA Rugby Club, celebrated five years of sporting activity on Wednesday at their Toul Kork orphanage, which coincided with the collective birthday of all the orphans.
During an address to the assembled crowd, Enfants d’Asie director Kem Kimlang noted that the introduction of rugby has made a significant impact on the lives of children.
“ASPECA and rugby have a big history together, but since this year we are happy to see that more and more kids wants to be part of the ASPECA Rugby Club adventure . . . it is a very good opportunity for all those orphans to learn the good values that inculcate from rugby,” she said.
Some of the young members of club performed a traditional Cambodian monkey dance, with the added twist of depicting the discovery of a rugby ball and learning to play the game. According to organisers, the performance was received with great enthusiasm.
Cambodian Federation of Rugby (CFR) development officer Dan Wetherall, who attended the event with CFR vice-president Philippe Monnin and CFR general secretary James Sterling, said: “It is very important for the CFR to show to all those kids the importance it attaches in the development of this rugby school. We want to encourage them to continue; that’s why we are here.”
Almost 70 children aged between seven and 17 years old, supported by Enfants d’Asie, are signed up for the ASPECA Rugby Club program. The set-up produces some formidable sides for the domestic competitions, with their U13 and U15 squads making the finals of the CFR leagues.
The club has been developed by French expat Jean-Baptiste Suberbie, who is also head coach and development officer of Kampuchea Balopp, a new NGO currently in the process of being officially recognised by the government. The global objective of this organisation is to bolster youth development in Cambodia through rugby in a similar fashion to the work done by the SALT Academy with young footballers in Battambang.
Reth Ra, a former student at Enfants d’Asie and now one of the local trainers with Kampuchea Balopp under the guidance of Suberbie, said he was “so proud” to work to expand the development of rugby at ASPECA.
“I learned rugby at this orphanage when I was younger. I became, as did all my brothers and sisters, very passionate about this game and now my job is to continue the adventure,” he said.
“I think I am very lucky. I could not dream of a better job.”
Surberbie told the Post that Enfants d’Asie partnerships manager Morgane Gauquelin, who is based in Paris, had noted that the majority of pictures drawn by the orphans and sent to supporters of the organisation were of themselves playing rugby.
“They really love the sport,” Suberbie said.
Another local NGO, Pour un Sourire d’Enfants, presently hosts the biggest rugby training school for Cambodian kids.