Brazilian-style football has come to Cambodia with the official launching of the Cambodian branch of the Brazilian International Football Academy (BIFA).
The launch ceremony was held yesterday at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino in Phnom Penh.
More than 100 people, including top Government officials, diplomats, school administrators, businessmen and football league and team officials were present during the sporting event. The dignitaries present included Khieu Samath, the vice president of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC); Ouk Sethycheat, the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and director general of sport; Riellionaire Group CEO Kuy Panchhey; BIFA founder Ricardo Alves Fernandes and DW Daniel, general director of the Riellionaire Group.
The launching was supposed to feature Roberto Carlos. But the Brazilian football great absent, due to ‘personal matters’.
Carlos was instead represented by Roberto Linck, a Brazilian-American football player and businessman. Linck is the owner of investment firm Linck Group and currently plays at Miami Dade FC.
According to Linck, Carlos was transiting in Dubai on his way to Cambodia but got a call from Real Madrid, asking him to return.
“He (Carlos) has a lifetime contract with Real Madrid and they asked him to return to attend some engagements,” he revealed.
In addition to launching BIFA Cambodia, Carlos was also slated to headline an exclusive meet-and-greet event at the Amigos Brazilian Steakhouse, Boostrong Meet the Legend at Olympic Stadium and an exclusive dinner party with CEO Master Club at Hard Rock Café.
Linck said they are working to reschedule the visit of Carlos to Cambodia.
In a video shown at the event, Carlos, who was speaking in his native Portuguese, said he was very sorry for not being able to visit the country. “I was upset. It was not easy for me,” he said.
Established in partnership with the Riellionaire Group, BIFA Cambodia has been described as ‘the Kingdom’s first professional football academy’. The Riellionaire Group is a leading investment and development company with interests in real estate, food, education and trading, amongst other sectors.
BIFA Cambodia is geared towards developing the football skills of children aged from three to 18 years old, while also aiming to create opportunities for those kids to play abroad.
It is patterned after BIFA Vietnam, which has been successful in developing the football skills of many Vietnamese kids since it first opened its doors in Ho Chi Minh City in 2016. The success of BIFA Vietnam prompted Fernandes to expand to this Kingdom of 16 million, where interest and passion for football runs high.
Trainings will be conducted by international coaches from Brazil and other countries. Local coaches will also be part of the programme, which will include workshops, after-school trainings, private and group trainings, corporate trainings, holiday camps and birthday parties.
“This is the beginning of something. Many doors will be opened,” said Linck, who also said that BIFA Cambodia looks forward to developing youngsters who will play for the Kingdom in the next Southeast Asian Games, other international football competitions and in international football clubs.
Fernades said they will do their best to make BIFA Cambodia successful.
“We came here to develop football in Cambodia. BIFA Cambodia can be successful if we do our best, be strong and be competent in the job,” he said.
BIFA Cambodia has the backing of FFC and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. BIFA Cambodia lists Miami Dade FC, Ginga Scout and Contratta as partners.
“We are very happy to welcome the new football academy from Brazil,” said Samath, who cited other existing successful football training centres in Cambodia like the National Football Academy in Takeo province and the ones operated by Boeung Ket FC and Phnom Penh Crown.