Dubai Exiles Rugby Club have made numerous trips to Cambodia to play in the Angkor 10s tournaments and give money to local charity organisations
AS rugby clubs from across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond descend upon Phnom Penh this weekend for the ANZ Royal Bank Angkor 10s, many of the city’s pubs and restaurants are preparing for the hordes of tired, battered rugby players, recovering from their bumps and bruises from a hard day on the pitch, and toasting their fellow combatants with a cold beverage for a job well done.
“The social part of rugby, that’s what makes the sport so special,” said Angkor 10s Tournament Co-Chairman Peter Maley. “Play hard, then have a few beers after the game with the opposing team. It’s all good fun.”
Now in its ninth year, the Angkor 10s has gained a reputation for being one of the most popular social rugby tournaments in Asia.
“We always focus on the social stuff, people having a good time during the weekend,” said Maley. “But there’s always some good rugby played, with some pretty decent teams coming every year.”
“We really enjoy coming here,” remarked Tim Lacey of the Dubai Exiles Rugby Club from the United Arab Emirates, who, along with teammate Jim Darbyshire, will be making his sixth visit to the tournament. “Phnom Penh is a fun place to spend the weekend, and the rugby played is pretty decent,”
“Sometimes we even do well on the field,” he added, referring to his club’s success in the Bowl Trophy in last year’s tournament.
But for the Exile players, their annual trip to the Angkor 10s is not just about the rugby games and the parties. It is also about helping the less fortunate.
“When our team first came to Cambodia [in 2004], we were really taken by the country,” notes Lacey. “But we were also affected seeing all the poverty and the challenges that many disadvantaged people and especially disadvantaged kids face here. We wanted to do something, to make a difference each year we came for the tournament.”
The Exiles decided to make a difference through something they were familiar with: sport.
In 2007, the club made an initial contribution toward the construction cost of a new sports court surface at the Sunrise Children’s Village orphanage in Takhmau.
Construction of the facility was completed in 2008, and the multipurpose surface allows the children to play a variety of sports and not be affected by the rainy-season downpours that often flood the facility’s grass fields. In their visit during last year’s Angkor 10s, the Exiles also contributed an additional US$5,000 to Sunrise for the purchase of new sports equipment.
Over the past six years, the team has also made sizeable contributions to other local NGOs serving disadvantaged youth, such as the Indochina Starfish Foundation and M’Lop Tapang in Sihanoukville.
The Exiles have also been steadfast supporters of the Cambodian Federation of Rugby (CFR), donating cash, jerseys, and rugby balls for the Cambodian junior teams.
CFR Vice President Philippe Monnin praised the Exiles for their charitable efforts, along with their generous support of local youth rugby development.
“They have always been a great friend of the Federation,” said Monnin. “Every year they are so generous to us. We value their support.”
Lacey stated this year the Exiles plan to make additional $5,000 donations to the CFR, as well as to Sunrise, Starfish, and M’Lop Tapang.
Although he is not willing to predict how his team will fare in this year’s tournament, Lacey believes the club’s visit to Cambodia will be a success, no matter what happens on the field.
“We believe rugby is a perfect vehicle to do good deeds, and it is an important aspect of our club ethos,” he stated. “Helping others – that’s what makes our club proud.”