More than 540 underprivileged youngsters from around Cambodia will gather at the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) Sports Grounds next week for the 2020 edition of the annual Ian Thompson Memorial-ISF Boys’ Tournament.
The tournament will be held on Feb 22 in honour of the late Ian Thompson, who was a long-time supporter of the Cambodian charity organisation. While the tournament has been an annual affair since 2007, ISF has partnered with the Ian Thompson Memorial for the past seven years to run the Boys’ Tournament for Under-10 and Under-14 players. This year will also feature an Under-16 category for the first time and 45 teams will compete in total for the top prize, according to ISF Communications Officer Christopher Morris.
“There will be 540 players from 10 of Cambodia’s 25 provinces taking part in the tournament,” Morris commented.
Referring to the participants and their eagerness to join, Morris said some of them will be travelling for seven hours each way to demonstrate their skills on the pitch.
The participants will be competing at the ISF Sports Grounds, a purpose-built football field, one of the largest and best Phnom Penh has to offer.
“These young players will gather at ISF Sports Ground for a day of play that they would likely not have experienced elsewhere,” he said. The event, according to Morris, is often the highlight of the year for these young children who rarely get the chance to take part in competitive sport.
“Through participating in competitions, they gain vital skills such as determination and a drive to succeed, as well as developing resilience when they lose matches,” he said.
For Yin Samedy, ISF Football Programme Manager, the importance of the day is simple – bringing joy to young players. “It only takes one day to make more than five hundred children smile together,” he explained.
There will be a bigger participation this year compared to the previous two years. Last year, the event attracted 500 young footballers. In 2018, there were 480 players in the tournament.
The tournament is part of ISF’s Football Programme, which plays a key role in providing grassroots footballing opportunities to some of Cambodia’s most disadvantaged children. The programme works directly with disadvantaged children who live in communities where poverty, social exclusion and lack of opportunity regularly lead to harmful behaviours.
The programme offers football training and competition opportunities for children and youth of all abilities and genders whilst developing social awareness, education, soft-skills, employability skills and leadership.
ISF’s Football Programme has grown exponentially, from 15 players in 2006 to 3,500 boys and girls, including 400 players with a range of disabilities. ISF runs the programme in partnership with the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
ISF is a non-government organisation with more than 13 years of experience working with some of Cambodia’s most marginalised children and economically-deprived communities through an Education Programme, Football Programme and Community Development Project.