A team of seven Cambodian football players will leave for Norway on Monday to represent the Kingdom in the Homeless World Cup being held in Oslo from August 29 until September 5.
The Cambodian squad of Som Sokla, Mut Sakpich, Kin Ratana, Long Sovatha, Choeun Sochat, Seng Saray and Van Ream, all 17-19 years old, apart from Ream who is 16 and Sovatha, 23, have been drawn in a tough Group C that includes reigning champions Mexico, as well as Italy, Germany, Romania and South Korea
The annual tournament has been running since 2003. Just 18 teams attended that first edition, but this year 72 teams from 48 countries will take part in what is set to be the biggest competition yet.
The Homeless World Cup has helped dozens of young Cambodians turn their lives around over the past decade – with some even going on to play professional football.
Men Monira represented Cambodia at the 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan, Italy, and has gone on to play professionally in Cambodia – recently transferring from Metfone C-League side Svay Rieng to Western Phnom Penh in the preseason.
“I want to thank HFCA and the Homeless World Cup for giving me the opportunity to play football for my country in Milan,” Monira said.
“Being part of the HFCA programme changed my life forever. Without that support I would not be a professional footballer today and not be able to support my family and stand on my own two feet.”
Cambodia has been represented at the World Cup for the past 10 years, thanks to Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA), an organisation that has coordinated the team’s appearances at the event.
“The positive effect that playing in the Homeless World Cup has had on young people’s lives around the world, including here in Cambodia, makes all the effort worthwhile,” said Paraic Grogan, who founded HFCA in 2005.
“We are so grateful for the support we receive from our main sponsor Smart Axiata, from the Cambodian Children’s Fund and from the Collingwood Rotarians in Melbourne. Without them we would not be able to do what we are doing again this year for a 10th year in a row.”
The Homeless World Cup aims through positivity and self-respect to inspire homeless people to improve their lives, and a recent survey of participants found that 94 percent said it had impacted their lives for the better.
At a press conference yesterday, HFCA and Smart Axiata announced the extension until 2020 of their partnership to support more underprivileged youngsters to attend future Homeless World Cups.
The collaboration will by then have reached the milestone of a decade of jointly creating positive change through football.
Speaking at the event, Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata said he was proud of the company’s contribution to support the Cambodian team, as well as of the impact of HFCA’s work.
“Seeing these young people from challenging backgrounds thrive and prosper through football is very inspiring to us and we are delighted to extend our sponsorship for another three years,” he said.
“I look forward to . . . Team Cambodia building on their Men’s Globe Trophy win [in Glasgow] last year,” he said.
According to HFCA country manager Vibol Chao, the tournament will be played in a futsal format with four players a side.