4 CCF footballers left disappointed as Cambodia withdraws from the Homeless World Cup due to visa issues

Four football players from CCF have seen their dreams of playing in the Homeless World Cup end after the Cambodian national team announced it was withdrawing from the competition due to problems obtaining visas for Mexico.

The CCF players were due to travel as part of a eight-man strong squad to Mexico City for the 16th edition of the tournament.

But just three weeks before the event kicks off on November 13, Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA), which put together the Cambodian team and is a partner organisation of CCF, announced that it was pulling out claiming it had been unable to get visas for the Khmer team after months of negotiating with Mexican authorities.

“Happy Football Cambodia Australia regretfully announces the withdrawal of Cambodia’s team from the 2018 Homeless World Cup football tournament to be held from the 13th to 18th of November in Mexico City, Mexico,” said HFCA in a statement today (Oct 23).

The “difficult decision” had been made, it said, “due to serious concerns regarding the process required to obtain Mexican visas for HFCA’s eight young Khmer players, including the expectation that they spend an extended period of time – without passports – in neighbouring Thailand waiting for visas to be processed by the Mexican embassy, with additional travel to the embassy in Vietnam for three players.”

The statement added: “It is HFCA’s belief – shared by partner organisations – that this process would detract from the studies of, and put an undue amount of pressure on, the players, who have come from underprivileged backgrounds and have not previously travelled outside of Cambodia.”

More than 500 players from 47 nations are due to descend on Mexico City for this year’s Homeless World Cup, the 16th edition, travelling from as far afield as Pakistan and Peru.
The inspirational event features players who have faced homelessness or social marginalisation.
Millions of viewers will tune in online to cheer on their teams with another 200,000 spectators expected to attend the games.
But Cambodia will no longer be among the competing sides.

“We are disappointed by the lack of assistance received from Mexican officials, after six months of negotiations, in obtaining visas for our players to attend the Homeless World Cup – an event that prides itself on inclusiveness and fair opportunities for all”, says HFCA CEO Paraic Grogan.

CCF’s players and the rest of the Cambodian squad had been training for months for the once-in-a-life opportunity to be part of a World Cup.
It would have been the first time travelling overseas for the four CCF players: Vutha Tum, 16, Phanna Phorn, 17, Buntan Sok, 18, and Vannet Phal.
CCF had profiled the players and their excitement at competing on a world football stage.

Organisers Homeless World Cup Foundation said it was “disappointed” that HFCA had withdrawn the Cambodia team after all the preparation for an event, which “brings teams from all over the world together to celebrate sport, diversity, respect and friendship.”

“As with any international event, there are strict procedures for obtaining visas for entering the host country. We understand that the visa process was complicated for Cambodia, as it is, for many of our participating teams,” it said in a statement today.
“Homeless World Cup Foundation and everyone at the local organising committee has worked very hard to assist our teams in obtaining visas in order to attend the Mexico 2018 Homeless World Cup. Unfortunately, this year’s process has been too challenging for team Cambodia, and we respect their decision to withdraw from the competition.”

HFCA CEO Paraic Grogan said the news was broken to the Cambodian team players a few days before the announcement.
“As can be expected, our players are very upset that they will be unable to represent their country next month in Mexico, but we will do all we can to ensure they have the opportunity to compete in Wales, at the 2019 tournament,” said Mr. Grogan.

CCF player Vannet Phal, 20, said the players were sad to miss out on the chance to represent their country abroad.
“We are very disappointed as we have been training very hard and we were looking forward to the experience,” said Vannet, a defender in the team.
“But I hope that I can go to Britain next year and play.”

Kate Ginn/CCF

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