Ruud Van Nistelrooy, former Real Madrid and Manchester United hotshot, has said he is looking forward to meeting with his many Cambodian football fans, signing football shirts, and taking pictures with his numerous fans.
The now-retired Dutch striker, who landed in Phnom Penh on Monday as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy tour presented by Heineken, began yesterday’ morning’s press conference by wishing a “Sousdey Kampuchea”, much to the delight of those in attendance.
“Such a pleasure to be here. I would like to thank Heineken and UEFA for the opportunity and for inviting me as an ambassador, said Van Nistelrooy. “It was great to be able to choose from a few countries to present the trophy and for me it was great to pick Cambodia.”
“It’s the third time I’ve done this tour but the very first time for Cambodia to be part of the tour, so it’s very special to be a part of that. I’m very excited about meeting the fans because I know they love their football, love to play, and support teams in the various leagues that I have played in.”
Van Nistelrooy, who ended his playing career at Malaga in 2012 and is currently manager of the PSV Eindhoven youth team, revealed that a large part of what drew him to the tour was the ability to impart his deep footballing knowledge on young players.
“One of the main reasons I chose to be a part of this is because I want to inspire the boys and girls who love to play the game, to enjoy the sport together, he said. “Football is a great team sport, it connects people, it’s heathy, and fun. My brother and I will be running a football clinic later on and we hope to share knowledge and experience of the game with coaches and players here in Cambodia.”
The 41-year old is spending time in the kingdom with the Champions League trophy stationed at Koh Pich in Phnom Penh.
The occasion marks the first time club football’s most prestigious trophy has reached Cambodian shores.
Sitting alongside Van Nistelrooy, Cambodia Brewery Limited (CBL) Managing Director Roland Bala explained why it was important to bring the player and the trophy to Cambodia.
“It’s a chance for football fans around the world to share in the drama. The UEFA Champions League is a competition in which the best of the best compete, said Mr. Bala. “We wanted to give the Cambodian youth, in terms of the excitement for the Champions League, a chance to witness something they would not be able to in normal life.
“Bringing the trophy here, as well as a legend like Ruud Van Nistelrooy, we want to inspire young Cambodian footballers to take their football to the highest possible level. For us we certainly look forward to having our own superstars from Cambodia.”
Also in attendance at yesterday’s event were May Tola, general secretary at the Football Federation of Cambodia, and Sean Borat, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport.
Van Nistelrooy, with 56 goals to his credit, is the fourth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history and a three-time Champions League top scorer. He was also a top scorer in three different European domestic leagues.
Van Nistelrooy’s trip to the kingdom will conclude later today, but not before he attends the trophy party alongside fans at City Hall, Koh Pich.