Cambodian Youth Team Competes in S Africa

Disadvantaged Children Play in Tourney Alongside World Cup

Even as the field of teams left in the World Cup was whittled down to three last night, Cambodia’s footballers in South Africa played on.

According to officials from the Football Federation of Cambodia, eight young boys and girls from Pailin and Battambang provinces are playing in FIFA’s “Football for Hope” tournament, an event run by the association’s non-profit arm in an effort to bring together disadvantaged children from around the world. The Cambodian team is coached by representatives from the anti-mine NGO Spirit of Soccer, which uses football as a means of keeping kids away from more dangerous games.

“The children live in poor areas and have been affected by landmines,” said May Tola, deputy secretary-general of the FFC. “It is exciting that they get to go and witness the World Cup and tour South Africa.”

Mr Tola added that the team’s involvement in the tournament was particularly exciting because “it is not realistic that the Cambodian national team will make it [to the World Cup] without many more resources and much more time.”

“The Cambodian team seems extremely happy and says they are learning a lot and hope to bring what they’ve learned here back to their home,” said Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, by phone from South Africa on Monday.

According to Mr Addiechi, the Cambodian team was in the stands for Spain’s triumph over Paraguay on Saturday and has toured Johannesburg, where the tournament is taking place in the Alexandra township.

But it hasn’t been all fun: There have also been games. Spirit of Soccer has played teams from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Bosnia, Colombia and South Africa already and will face Mali today.

Asked about the Cambodian team’s progress, Mr Addiechi said he didn’t know the scores so far, but hastened to add that winning isn’t the object of the tournament anyway.


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