4 CCF students are preparing to head to the UK to represent Cambodia in the football Homeless World Cup 2019
Four Cambodian Children’s Fund students have made the team of the Cambodian football squad taking part in the Homeless World Cup in the UK later this month.
It means half of the players selected for the national side are from CCF. Three of these players had been due to represent Cambodia in last year’s Homeless World Cup but were left disappointed when the team was forced to withdraw from the global event with just three weeks to go due to problems obtaining visas to travel to Mexico.
With no such setbacks this time, their goal of competing in a World Cup is finally within reach.
Later this month, CCF players Vutha Thum, 16, Buntan Sok, 19, Vannet Phal, 20, and Seyma Chea, 18, will travel to Wales for the 17th edition of the week-long football tournament, which kicks off on July 27.
They will join more than 500 players representing 64 teams from over 50 countries descending on the Welsh capital, Cardiff, for what promises to be one of the biggest and most inspiring Homeless World Cup tournaments yet.
“We are very honoured to bring a team from Cambodia to Cardiff for the Homeless World Cup,” said Paraic Grogan, who founded Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA), which put together the Cambodian team, speaking at a press conference on July 3.
“This will be our 11th year attending the Homeless World Cup and it’s a team effort to get everything organised.
“The positive effect that playing in the Homeless World Cup has had on young people’s lives around the world, including here in Cambodia, makes all the effort worthwhile.”
HFCA uses football to work with disadvantaged children, boys and girls, and is a partner organisation of CCF.
Buntan Sok, a student at CCFs Neeson Cripps Academy, was in last year’s Cambodian squad, which failed to make it Mexico amid claims they were struggling to get visas for the Khmer players.
With the upset of last year behind them, Buntan, is eagerly looking forward to finally getting his chance to play on a world stage, flying the flag for CCF and his country.
“I feel really excited that I’m going to play in a World Cup,” he said.
“Last year, we could not go so I am very happy that I will be going and leaving Cambodia for the first time.”
Started in 2003, the Homeless World Cup aims to transform lives through sport and use football to raise awareness of the issues of homelessness and social issues.
Like the other three CCF players, going to the Homeless World Cup presents the first chance for Buntan to travel abroad and go on an aeroplane, and all of them have also overcome difficult backgrounds.
Buntan did not go to school as a young child because his family was too poor to afford the fees and seemed destined to become a fisherman like his dad. CCF changed his life when he joined the Education Program at the age of 11. Now he wants to be a professional footballer and makes his seven siblings proud.
Striker Seyma, the new face in the team who wasn’t in the squad last year, has been with CCF since 2010 and started playing football with HFCA three years ago.
His parents are separated and he lives with his mum, who works for CCF as a security guard. Three of his eight siblings – four brothers and four sisters – also study with CCF.
“My family is very proud of me and very excited,” he said.
Vannet Phal, 20, is also getting a second shot at playing in a World Cup after being part of last year’s squad, which didn’t make it to the tournament. He said he was looking forward to showcasing his skills on the pitch and finally achieving his footballing goal.
Hoping to guide them to victory will be team coach, Kimhong Thong, 24, who represented Cambodia at the 2015 Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam and has since gone on to become the HFCA regional manager and head coach of the HFCA program in Siem Reap.
“To be given the honour of coaching my country at an international football tournament in Europe makes me feel so proud,” said Kimhong. “I am aware that this is a great responsibility but I promise the people of Cambodia that the team will give 100% in every game.”
Used to training on a small artificial pitch in Phnom Penh, Seyma and his Cambodian teammates will be playing surrounded by 130 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland at the Homeless World Cup venue, Cardiff’s Bute Park.
British Ambassador to Cambodia, Tina Redshaw, wished the Cambodian team well in their bid for glory in Wales.
“I too will be cheering for you and the Cambodian team during the competition. Enjoy the experience of being in Cardiff – it’s a beautiful city – and the experience of being part of such a fantastic global event,” she said to the players.
“On behalf of the United Kingdom and on behalf of Cardiff, I would like to wish you the best, to the players, the coach and staff, and I look forward to hearing how it went.”
With support, the Cambodian Homeless World Cup has funded most of the trip but is still to cover some accommodation and essential items, and appealed for help from donations.
Homeless World Cup 2018
2019 is the 17th edition of the Homeless World Cup
It will take place in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, part of the United Kingdom, from July 27-August 3
More than 500 players from 51 nations with 64 teams
48 squads in Men’s/Mixed competition and 16 in Women’s event
Men’s/Mixed playing for 6 trophies. Women’s teams play for 2 trophies
Defending Men’s/Mixed champions are Mexico who beat Chile 6-3 in the final
Mexico are also the Women’s defending champions after a win over Colombia
Teams of eight players
2 halves, 7 minutes each
On a pitch 22m x 16m
Expected 200,000 spectators, thousands watching online and millions following action via social media
Follow the build-up at www.homelessworldcup.org
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