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Cambodian squad bound for Homeless World Cup in Cardiff

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(Centre, left to right) Head coach Thong Kimhong, Smart Axiata head of regulatory and corporate affairs Jonathan Yap, British Ambassador Tina Redshaw and Happy Football Cambodia Australia founder Paraic Grogan pose with the 2019 Cambodian Homeless World Cup squad before they head off to Cardiff later this month. Scott Rotzoll/Happy Football Cambodia Australia

Cambodian squad bound for Homeless World Cup in Cardiff

The British Ambassador has wished Cambodia’s Homeless World Cup (HWC) team well before they head off to Welsh capital Cardiff for this year’s edition of the annual tournament.

“I will be delighted to welcome the Cambodian team to Cardiff,” Tina Redshaw said on Wednesday.

“Football is so important in the UK and the ability to share this ‘festival of football’ with countries from all over the world is an exceptional opportunity.”

Coming off a thrilling HWC held last year in Mexico City, 64 teams from 48 countries will be heading to Cardiff later this month.

This will be Cambodia’s 11th time competing in the event, with the help of Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA).

Head coach Thong Kimhong, who participated in 2015 when the competition was held in Dutch capital Amsterdam, said the experience gave him the confidence to experience life in a new light.

“I want to thank HFCA and the Homeless World Cup for giving me the opportunity to play football for my country . . . Being part of the HFCA program has changed my life forever,” Thoung said.

On Wednesday, HFCA held a press conference with the eight players who will represent the Kingdom this year, each eager to compete for their country.

Also present were four key people behind this year’s tournament – British Ambassador Redshaw, head coach Kimhong, Smart Axiata head of regulatory and corporate affairs Jonathan Yap and HFCA founder Paraic Grogan.

Coach Kimhong feels confident in the group’s ability this year, saying the players have worked harder than previous teams and the whole squad is optimistic that they can bring the trophy home for their country.

The players will be staying at Cardiff University, allowing time for players to meet and solidify their friendships.

The competition also provides an opportunity for the players to practise speaking foreign languages.

This year they can focus on learning English – and maybe a bit of Welsh.

Women’s team soon

The tournament takes place in Cardiff from July 27 to August 3 and Kimhong said the players are prepared both mentally and physically to compete at the highest level this year.

“Their travels and playing in this competition will broaden the players’ view of the world and of what their lives could become,” he said.

The Cambodian players have a packed schedule of 13 games in eight days. All the games will be broadcast live on the HFCA Facebook page.

Ambassador Redshaw set down an important challenge for HFCA founder Paraic.

She requested that HFCA and the Cambodian team push for a women’s team to compete in the HWC as soon as possible.

According to Paraic, 50 young women have been training with HFCA in the hope of putting a team together in the near future.

Paraic said he is sure there will be a women’s team competing very soon.

Smart Axiata’s Yap agreed with Redshaw on the importance of diversity in the HWC.

He said it is very important to Smart Axiata that the organisations they sponsor provide opportunities for both men and women to participate.

Cambodian Children’s Fund founder Scott Neeson said: “HFCA is a terrific organisation. Those able to make the Homeless World Cup team are given a world perspective they could never otherwise imagine.”

HFCA teaches players how to be part of a team, and how they can use sport as a means to change their personal situation, improving the lives of many young Cambodian in the 14 years of its existence.

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