Cambodian Footballers in Homeless World Cup

Six young men will board a plane for the first time in their lives today to travel to Poznan, Poland, where they will represent Cambodia in the 2013 Homeless World Cup, which takes place from August 10 to 18.

The players, who will compete against 64 teams from 53 countries, wore their red and white team uniforms at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday alongside long-term team coach Jimmy Campbell, Vibol Chao, country manager for NGO Happy Football Cambodia-Australia (HFCA), which runs the homeless football project here, and Padraic Grogan, the NGO’s founder.

The six members of Cambodia's national homeless football team pose for photos in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Simon Henderson/The Cambodia Daily)
The six members of Cambodia’s national homeless football team pose for photos in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Simon Henderson/The Cambodia Daily)

For 17-year-old Lek Chhunmalivy, being a striker on this year’s team carries extra significance—he was a reserve player in last year’s squad, which traveled to Mexico City, but the team had to be trimmed at the last minute due to a lack of funds.

“I was disappointed last year, but I am so happy that I was selected again this year…. I have trained hard and am ready for getting some good experiences in Poland,” he said at the press conference.

HFCA’s goal since 2005 has been to work with disadvantaged Cambodian youth through the medium of the “beautiful game,” which Mr. Grogan believes can positively impact their lives by opening up a window to the world.

“This is the sixth year we have sent a team to the world cup to countries like France, Mexico and Australia and the players know little if anything about places outside Cambodia. When we went to France, for example, they had never heard of Paris before they went, despite Cambodia being an ex-French colony,” Mr. Grogan said.

Raising enough money to send a team each year is tough, Mr. Grogan said, but the organization received support from sponsor Smart Mobile and fundraising events.

“I am a little bit afraid but very excited to go to Poland, it is a great opportunity for us,” said 22-year-old midfielder Huon Neasa, adding that there was one place the players were all familiar with.

“After Poland, I would like someday to visit England because I support Manchester United,” he said, to which all of his teammates nodded in agreement.

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.