Eight young and aspiring football players from underdeveloped areas in Phnom Penh returned home this week after recently taking to the skies for the first time in their lives to land in Bulgarian capital Sofia for the 2018 SATUC Cup.
The event brought together disadvantaged and orphaned players from 16 countries around the world.
The Cambodian team was made up of players from Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), a local non-governmental organisation working to provide access to education, healthcare and sport to some of the most marginalised children in Phnom Penh so that they can realise their potential and live their dreams.
The 15-16 year old students are part of ISF’s Football Program, which supports over 3,800 Cambodian children through its leagues, tournaments, festivals and regular coaching.
The program provides children with not only football skills, but also the opportunity to develop life skills and confidence, learn about important social issues and become advocates for change.
“These are some of the poorest children in Cambodia. They would never even have dreamt of travelling abroad to play football at an international tournament. Taking part in the SATUC Cup in Bulgaria is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young players to prove to themselves and others what they are capable of achieving,” said Football Program Manager Yin Samedy
The young Cambodian team had been training hard for almost a year in preparation for the event, taking part in intensive training camps run by ISF’s dedicated coaches.
The tournament kicked off last Sunday, and the Cambodian team drew 1-1 with Peru in their first match and won 5-0 against Bosnia in their second, before losong to Liberia 3-2 in their qualifier for the quarterfinals.
The players returned home all the richer and wiser for such an opportunity to meet, compete with and befriend, on another continent, peers from around the world.
They were given a rousing reception on their arrival home by their local communities.
The ISF has grown from providing basic education opportunities to 18 children in 2006 to 680 in 2017 and has plans to add 100 students to the program each year.
The organisation, with the support of the Football Federation of Cambodia, plays a key role in providing grassroots footballing opportunities to some of Cambodia’s most disadvantaged children.
Their football project has expanded from just 50 players in 2006 to almost 4,000 girls and boys of all abilities, and those with disabilities, including blind, hearing and vision-impaired, HIV positive and wheelchair-bound youth.