Photo by: Tep Phany/FFC
The Football for Hope team players compete in a friendly against the U14 national team at the National Training Centre.
FOUR girls and four boys have been chosen to represent Cambodia in the Football for Hope Festival in South Africa, an official event of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Around 300 players are expected to take part in the five-a-side tournament which will welcome 32 delegations representing 50 countries to Johannesburg this summer. Competition rules stipulate that at least two girls must be on the field at all times.
The Cambodian squad, jointly selected by local NGO Spirit of Soccer and the Cambodian Football Federation, has been drawn up from members of families affected by land mines. It is estimated that an average of 2,700 people lost their lives to mines and explosive remnants of war each year between 1979 and 1999, although the number had dropped to 270 in 2008. “There are still many land mine-infested areas,” said Spirit of Soccer country director Stephen Sonderman.
During a press conference at the National Football Centre on Friday morning, Spirit of Soccer founder Scott Lee said it was a “great honour” for Cambodia to be the only country in the Southeast Asian region to be invited.
“It shows how far Cambodian youth football has advanced over the years,” he stated. “They are Cambodia’s ambassadors.”
Sonderman said that the South Africa-bound team would undergo extensive orientation programmes to prepare for their “amazing experience.”
“It is another world for them. None of them have flown [in] an aircraft before, and you can imagine the excitement,” Lee said.
The orientation programme includes interaction with local youngsters who have had experience travelling abroad, mental toughness training, English lessons and even assessments from child psychologists. The team is scheduled to stay in South Africa from June 27 to July 12, and will have the privilege of watching the semifinals and final of football premier international competition. The team is also slated to stopover in Kuala Lumpur on their return journey for a possible FIFA workshop.
The Cambodian national U-14 team joined the eight-strong Football for Hope team Friday morning at the National Football Centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for a joint training session that also involved a short friendly match.
Later Friday, the General Secretary of the Cambodian Football Federation Ouk Setheycheat distributed Cambodian colours to the young squad team, saying: “We at the Federation are proud of this.”
Ly Heang has been appointed as head coach of the team, with Nhoe Kamsort named as his assistant. The team will also be accompanied by Stephen Sonderman and Spirit of Soccer senior programme advisor Rachel Haig along with the two more coaches.
The Cambodian delegation includes girls Seng Socheata (Bour village, Battambang), Choeun Linda (Pailin town), Keng Channou (Bour village) and Vann Naroth (Pailin town) and boys Kheng Vanneath (Samlot village, Battambang), Yem Vith (Pailin town), Rydam Sengvy (Banan Village, Battambang) and Phon Thavrak (Sompouv Loun village, Battambang). The stand-bys are Mo Savin (Banteay Meanchey province), Choeun Kunthea (Bour village) and Tong Kosal (Banan village).