Attending the FIFA World Cup is probably every young football player’s dream. But, for four young Cambodian students, this dream is about to come true.
The young players, aged between 15 and 17, are all students at Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), a local NGO that offers education and football programmes to under privileged children living in Phnom Penh. The students and their coach, also from ISF, will be participating in The FIFA Foundation Festival 2018, an official event of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, which will bring together 48 delegations from community-based organisations that use football as a tool to drive positive change.
The Festival, running 23 June to 3 July 2018, demonstrates to the football world as well as to the general public the positive impact that football can have in pursuing developmental goals such as education, health and well-being, peace-building, social integration and youth leadership and much more.
All delegations are mixed-gender, made up of 2 girls and 2 boys between the ages of 15 and 18. Cambodia’s young participants include Sreytouch (17), Sreyneath (15), Rasy (16) and Ravy (17). The group will be involved in a variety of sporting, cultural and educational activities during a very busy Festival week. For most of them, it’ll be their first time out of Cambodia and their first time flying. They will experience a long journey, a new environment and interact with young people from all around the world speaking many different languages.
As well as the cultural exchange aspect there will of course be a football tournament. Accompanying the four players and is coach and mentor Sameth Keb who has grown up in ISF’s football programme. Sameth played football at ISF as a teen and in 2012 was offered training and a full-time job as a coach. His passion for using football to drive social change positioned him as a sure choice for the role of Youth Leader for the delegation.
The delegation’s departure is hot-on-the-heels of the return 12-year-old students Sokheng Sengkea and Sok Makara (also students at ISF) who were selected by the Football Federation of Cambodia to represent the country at the 6th Gazprom Football for Friendship Championship at the opening of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
ISF’s country manager Vicheka Chourp, speaking at the airport before the delegation boarded, said that she was “honored to see ISF’s work in community-based football and education being recognised at such a prestigious and international level. I’m thrilled we’ve been selected to participate in an official FIFA World Cup event. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most youth, especially those from impoverished backgrounds with limited access to sport and play. It shows the powerful and positive impact of sport and how with hard work, determination and commitment, even the most unlikely goals become attainable”.