A team of seven Cambodian football players will leave for Norway later this week to represent the kingdom in the Homeless World Cup, an annual football tournament that aims to energise homeless people to change their own lives.
The Homeless World Cup has been running every year since 2003, when only 18 teams took part. This year, 72 teams from 48 countries will take part in the biggest edition of the event.
Cambodia has been represented for the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) organisation, which has coordinated the team’s appearances at the event.
Participating in the Homeless World Cup has helped dozens of young Cambodians turn their lives around in the last decade, with some even going on to play professional football.
Monira Men represented Cambodia at the 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan, Italy, and has since gone on to play professional football in Cambodia. He recently transferred from the C-League team Svay Rieng FC to Western Phnom Penh.
“I want to thank HFCA and the Homeless World Cup for giving me the opportunity to play football for my country in Milan,” he said.
“Being part of the HFCA programme changed my life forever. Without that support I would not be a professional footballer today and not be able to support my family and stand on my own two feet.”
“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,” said Paraic Grogan, who founded HFCA in 2005 and now runs the organisation.
“We are so grateful for the support we receive from our main sponsor Smart Axiata, from the Cambodian Children’s Fund and from the Collingwood Rotarians in Melbourne.
“Without them we would not be able to do what we are doing again this year for a 10th year in a row.”
At yesterday’s press conference, HFCA and Smart Axiata also announced the extension of their partnership, which now supports even more underprivileged children attending future Homeless World Cups. The collaboration will amount to 10 years in total of jointly creating positive change through the power of football.
Speaking at the event, Thomas Hundt, the CEO of Smart Axiata, said he was proud of the company’s contribution to supporting the Cambodian team, as well as the impact of HFCA’s work.
“Seeing these young people from challenging backgrounds thrive and prosper through football is very inspiring to us and we are delighted to extend our sponsorship for another three years until 2020,” he said.
“Smart strongly believes in the power of sports to build communities and restore hope to those with difficult lives. I look forward to HFCA and Team Cambodia building on their Men’s Globe Trophy win last year.”
“HFCA was simply a great fit for our organisation,” said Scott Neeson, the founder of the Cambodian Children’s Fund.
“The Homeless World Football Cup is a remarkable opportunity for youth to excel. These are youth that are very unlikely to make it through university.
“However, they can live the bigger dream of representing Cambodia in the national football competition,” he added.
The draw for this year’s cup has already taken place and Team Cambodia faces a strong group including reigning champions Mexico, as well as Italy, Germany, Romania and South Korea.
The 2017 tournament in Oslo, Norway, will run from August 29 until September 5.