Football coach Sok Ranya is delighted to see the AIA-ISF Youth League introduce healthier habits and choices to young Cambodian players.
Ranya coaches 58 children and young adults aged 10-22 years old of all abilities every week, providing social impact training and technical football skills. Many of her players participate in the AIA-ISF Youth League which she describes as crucial to the development of such skills as well as healthy relationships and healthy lifestyles. By competing in the league, her players are investing their time into football training which often prevents them from getting involved in drugs or other potentially dangerous or illegal activities. In their weekly training sessions, there is a social impact element that focuses on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address issues such as: gender equality, conflict prevention, health and wellness and other life skills. The coaches act as role models for the players and this is particularly significant when it comes to increasing female participation. Seeing female coaches can be a source of inspiration for girls wanting to break into sport attests Ranya.
As a twenty-something year old, Sok Ranya never dreamed she’d be trading in garment factory work for the football pitch. But, fast forward nine years and here she is, a full-time football coach at ISF Cambodia. Football has always been a passion for Ranya but she knew that as a woman in Cambodian society, accessing sporting opportunities would be difficult. When a male colleague of hers from the garment factory told her there could be a chance for her to play football and train as a coach with him at ISF, she jumped at it!
Ranya realised that her decision would likely be met with scepticism but when she looks back on her journey now she tells us she’d do it all again. “I love my job as a coach, it’s my passion and I would face any consequence for it” she says. She remembers the time when she first started attending football training at ISF and her family told her they wanted to lock her up. While her aunt and sister believed that Cambodian women had no place in sport, Ranya proved them wrong and it wasn’t until her first trip abroad to Laos for a tournament that she began to see a shift in their attitudes.
Once Ranya started working as a coach at ISF and helping to supplement her family’s income, she not only began to receive more positivity from them but also more decision-making power. Based on her own experience, Ranya recognises female participation as “very important because it supports the promotion of gender equality in Cambodian society”. Being listened to and having her opinion valued leaves Ranya with a sense of pride in herself and her work. However, the best part of her job, she tells is “helping disadvantaged Cambodian kids find a passion and opportunity to realise their dreams”, an opportunity she didn’t get when she was their age.
Just as the league pushes players to improve it also pushes the coaches. While Ranya acknowledges that she has done well as a coach, she also recognises areas for self-development and wants to provide better coaching and technical skills to her players. Thanks to AIA, Ranya and all the coaches at ISF, have received direct training from elite coaches of the UK-based Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (“Spurs”), of which AIA is the Global Principal Partner. This training, which took place in June, has already given Ranya clarification on areas she was struggling with – how to engage players to attend coaching sessions regularly and how to provide improved technical coaching. Ranya is already putting what she learned into practice and looking forward to the commencement of the league in December.