With a quick turn Tim Phearin loses his defender and shoots the ball past the goalkeeper in the bottom corner of the goal, ending the one-on-one training exercise organized by Inter Milan’s youth football coaches at Northbridge International School on Monday.
The 15-year-old orphan from Battambang town was one of 63 disadvantaged children enjoying the first day of a four-day football clinic held by trainers from Inter Campus, the global youth training academy of Italian football club Inter Milan. The trainers were brought to Cambodia by Australian charity Happy Football Cambodia Australia.
“I am happy to be here today,” Tim Phearin said. “From when I was 5 years old, I picked up the balls for older players, and I see this game is very fun…[now] I play football every day,” he added.
Kate Griffin, country manager of Indochina Starfish Foundation, which participated in the event along with NGOs the Happy School, the Center for Children’s Happiness and the Riverkids Foundation, said sports have a big impact on the lives of disadvantaged children.
Her organization funds football training, she said, adding that NGOs implementing the training of about 1,300 kids per week had reported improvements in the children’s grades, attitudes and behavior within groups after they joined the programs.
Inter Campus youth coaches Fabrizio Piccareta and Gabriele Raspelli said the first training day had been intended to assess the skill level of the participants, who were between the ages of 12 and 18, for the remaining training exercises.
When asked if Inter Campus might establish a permanent football camp in Cambodia, Raspelli responded, “We hope so.” But the pair noted that the creation of a permanent facility would depend on an examination of local conditions, such as the capacity of local organizations and the availability of facilities. The two trainers added that they would report their experiences to their club.
Should a permanent Inter Campus be established, it would be supported with staff training, football supplies and regular visits by Italian youth coaches, Piccareta said.
Paraic Grogan, an Irish social worker and founder of Happy Football Cambodia Australia, said eight children from Happy Football Cambodia will represent Cambodia next month at the annual Homeless World Cup in Australia.
Muong Bunthoeun, an 18-year-old goalkeeper from Phnom Penh, said he had been surprised by his selection for the Homeless Cup team, as he had only been playing football for about one year.
“I will try my best to win,” he said of the world cup competition in Melbourne. “I think we have an 80 percent chance to win the cup.”