Over 100 Boys Play ‘Zero Evictions’ Football

More than 100 boys from eight poor urban communities, who have ei­ther recently been removed from their homes or may soon be, com­pet­ed in a “Zero Evictions” football tournament in Phnom Penh Wed­nesday.

The competition was organized by local a NGO, the Teang Tnaut As­sociation, and sponsored by the German development organization Deutscher Enwicklungsdienst, to draw attention to the rash of recent evictions in Phnom Penh—most no­tably in Tonle Bassac commune and next to the Preah Monivong hospital.

Four of the eight communities the boys came from were relocation sites outside Phnom Penh where families were sent after eviction. The remainder were from areas that Teang Tnaut considered threatened. The competitors were all aged 15 or under.

Teang Tnaut Coordinator Meas Kim Seng described the tournament as “a gentle message of conscience for the government’s consideration.” He added that he hoped to make it an annual event.

Hallam Goad, an adviser for the association, said the group had initially planned a much larger gathering, but decided to tone things down in case it turned into a protest rally.

The football games themselves were friendly affairs, but not lacking in competitive spirit. The boys grandstanded after goals for the ap­preciative crowd and many a complaint over goalies being too tall to compete was heard.

After the games wrapped up, Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections, and Municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun, addressed the crowd.

Koul Panha appealed for an end to forced evictions under the pretexts of development and beautification, calling the villagers and their children “pillars of the nation.”

Mann Chhoeun praised the tournament for presenting its views peacefully but was less forthright when asked whether the evictions would cease. “We will find the middle road,” he said, adding that peaceful measures are far more likely to influence the government.

But the boys had little interest in the speeches, or the political aims of the tourney. Most said they had no idea what the “Zero Evictions” phrase printed on their T-shirts meant. They said they just wanted to compete and make friends.

 

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