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GSG-ISF tournament: Giving girls opportunities to play football in Cambodia

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
Young girls in action during a previous Goldman Sachs Gives – ISF Girls’ Tournament. ISF

Goldman Sachs Gives (GSG) and the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) will once again hold the Goldman Sachs Gives – ISF Girls’ Tournament this coming weekend.

This year’s edition of the Goldman Sachs Gives – ISF Girls’ Tournament will be held at the ISF Sports Ground in Phnom Penh on Saturday, the day before the celebration of International Women’s Day.

Christopher Morris, communications officer at ISF, said 408 young female players will take part and show off their skills during the tournament. The players are divided into 37 teams spread across U-18, U-14 and U-10 categories.

The turnout for this year is much bigger than in 2019. Last year’s edition of the tournament drew more than 360 participants.

GSG, a donor-advised fund for current and retired senior employees of the financial giant Goldman Sachs, and ISF, a charity organisation working with Cambodia’s underprivileged sector, first hosted the tournament in 2008, and it has been held every year since then.

Morris said the tournament celebrates girls’ inclusion in sports and gives girls advanced opportunities to play football, the most popular sport in this Kingdom of 16 million people.

“Before ISF started running this annual tournament, there were few official organised football events for girls in Cambodia. Opportunities for girls to play are scarce in the Kingdom, especially if they come from underprivileged backgrounds. Many are discouraged from setting foot on the pitch, as sport is generally thought to solely be a boy’s activity,” he noted.

Morris said ISF is working to change that perception. Since the programme’s inception, according to him, ISF’s provision of football for female players has grown from 48 players in 2008 to 1,300 in 2020 and the organisation now employs four female coaches.

“ISF has been a pioneer of women’s football in the country and seeks to continue to foster gender equality and social inclusion through sport,” he stressed.

GSG, according to him, is supporting ISF as it seeks to promote education and sport in communities marked by extreme poverty; empower female players to challenge gender stereotypes and discrimination; and provide opportunities for personal development, peer-to-peer education and mentoring through coaching.

In monthly sessions, ISF coaches teach social impact lessons developed in partnership with Coaches Across Continents, a global leader in football for social development. Through play and engaging activities, players are exposed to locally relevant topics such as gender equality, conflict management and substance abuse. These efforts were recognized by the Asian Football Confederation in 2019, which bestowed ISF with the Best Grassroots Football Project Award. When accepting the honour, ISF’s Country Manager, Vicheka Chourp, remarked,

“Football can empower communities regardless of their abilities. Our projects target different groups and we can use the sport as a tool for character building and to instill lifelong values,” she said.

Two weeks ago, ISF and partners jointly organised the Ian Thompson Memorial-ISF Boys’ Tournament. More than 540 young boys in 45 teams competed in the tournament. The tournament was held in honour of the late Ian Thompson, a longtime supporter of the organisation.

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