The award recognises individuals who have shown dedication and courage in using sport to improve their communities, standing up against injustice and discrimination – often at great personal risk. The shortlisted individuals have all courageously challenged the status quo to make a positive difference in communities around the world.
Coach Nara, 23, grew up in the notorious slum of Boueng Kak in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a community decimated by controversial land development. He received little education as a child and faced a bleak future, until his life was changed by his passion for football. He joined ISF’s Football Programme 10 years ago and went from being a talented player to a qualified football coach. While working for ISF, Nara trained with FIFA, worked with the Special Olympics, learnt crucial skills from Coaches Across Continents, and gained his AFC C License.
Now, Nara’s life’s mission is to “pay it back”, and bring football to children living in extreme poverty in rural Cambodian communities. He recently left ISF to create a grassroots NGO called Play To Progress with his own time and money. His programme has already travelled to six rural locations around Cambodia using sports to engage kids and give them tools to overcome social problems such as drugs, crime and unemployment.
“If it hadn’t been for sport I’m sure I’d have ended up like other people I grew up with, involved in drugs or gangs,” says Nara. “I hope the kids I work with see me, know I am just like them, and see sports as a way out and forward.”
All of us at ISF couldn’t be prouder of the amazing work Nara and his team are doing and look forward to cheering for him at the Beyond Sport Global Awards in New York next month. ISF’s Football Programme has also been shortlisted for an award at the event – the Sport for Health and Well-being Award. Speaking of the shortlist, ISF’s country manager Vicheka Chourp, said that she is “honored to see ISF’s work in community-based football being recognised at such a prestigious and international level” and hopes that “it demonstrates the need and importance of such work in Cambodia and further afield”.