Inter Campus coaches bring a touch of Italian football to 60
disadvantaged youths with four-day clinic that could herald a permanent
program in Cambodia
Thomas Gam Nielsen
Gabriele Raspelli (centre) supervises a match Thursday at a football clinic put on by a youth development branch of Inter Milan at Northbridge International School in Phnom Penh.
DOZENS of disadvantaged kids went home Thursday with new football skills, Inter Milan jerseys and stickers after a four-day football clinic conducted by Inter Campus, the youth development wing of Italian football giants Inter Milan.
The 60 participants, who received training from two roving Inter Campus coaches, Gabriele Raspelli and Fabrizio Piccareta, came from four organisations supporting poor children in Phnom Penh - the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), Riverkids, Happy School and the Center for Children to Happiness.
Today the two coaches were to hold a training program for Cambodian referees.
Participant Hor Vannara, 13, said he hoped the free training could help him become "the best football player" in the world.
"Me and my friends from the [ISF] centre gained a lot of experience and learned new techniques from the foreign coaches," he told the Post. "We are kicking better and passing the ball better."
Kate Griffin, an ISF social worker, said the children were so eager to begin playing that they had arrived at the grounds early for the clinic.
"Some of them asked me whether they could play football once again on Friday rather than going to school," she said.
On Wednesday, the two coaches took a break from pitch to visit the Stung Meanchey rubbish dump, where some of the youths who participated in the Inter Campus clinic live and work.
Raspelli said that in his four-year career with Inter Campus, which has taken him to such locations as Morocco, China and Slovakia, the grinding poverty of Stung Meanchey was among the most disturbing he had seen.
"I want to remember the visit because their situation is so unfair. It is so hard to imagine that small kids live in this rubbish," he said.
The four-day football clinic this week was the brainchild of Melbourne-based social worker Paraic Grogran, co-founder of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia, who has been working to bring Inter Campus to Cambodia since meeting Piccareta and Raspelli in 2006.
The two coaches are now talking with their management about setting up a permanent Inter Campus football training centre in Cambodia.
Inter Campus has football schools 18 locations around the world, and the financing of the projects differs from place to place depending on the level of local funding provided.