Ex-Pommy comedian and former UK academy soccer whizz-kid, Charlie Pomroy, kicked a big goal in Siem Reap last month when he helped organise the biggest soccer match ever held in the world.
Pomroy, a Phys Ed teacher at Siem Reap’s Jay Pritzker Academy, can now claim that he and his charges hold the new world record for the most soccer players in one match.
A couple of months ago, Charlie spread the word, saying, “This summer we will attempt to break a world record right here in Siem Reap.
“The most amount of participants in a single game of soccer currently stands at 2,375 set in Chile in a game that lasted five days. We’re going for 3,000!!!!!”
The magic 3,000 number wasn’t met, but on July 11-14, the world record was smashed.
“We managed to break the world record by 350 odd players and one day less than before,” Charlie announced.
“We managed to get 2,734 players in a game that lasted 84.5 hours – the previous world record attempt lasted 120 hours.
“The game never stopped. Players had to play a minimum of 10 minutes to register as a player, and we had eight local NGO schools involved as well as one government school and roughly 25 different teams from Siem Reap.”
Luckily, organising such an event wasn’t too difficult due to a lot of help from football friends.
“It wasn’t as tricky as you would think,” Charlie says, “We had tremendous support from local NGOs and government schools, and we coach around 1,000 kids per week on our grassroots programmes.
“Playing through the night was the hardest part, but again so-o-o-o-o many people kept coming out to help. We had an amazing support team and the Khmers came out in numbers.
“Soccer brings people together like no other sport. The world record is proof of that.”
While this amazing feat went unheralded in Cambodia, international media ran with it – a major Chinese media organisation picked up on it, as did Turner Broadcasting’s Bleacher Report, which ran a short video of the action under the headline, “The World’s Biggest Football Match Has Taken Place in Cambodia.”
Charlie Pomroy took a break from his aspiring career as UK comedian– he performed twice at the Edinburgh Festival – to hit the Asian travel trail in 2010, ultimately settling in Siem Reap.
“I’d been in Siem Reap in 2008, and came back here in 2011 looking for work but couldn’t find any,” he says.
“A friend of mine was here and she got wind of a job with the international NGO Globalteer, so I arrived back in town in August 2012 to work for Globalteer, setting up sports and soccer programmes for NGO schools.”
In 2014, he set up a soccer academy, Next Step FC, particularly for players from underprivileged backgrounds, and in 2016, Next Step joined forces with the Swedish soccer app Forza Football to become the Forza Academy.
Charlie’s soccer successes in Siem Reap are many: he has organised several youth leagues in Siem Reap, coached teams, steered the club’s Under14 boys team to be crowned national champions in 2016, had several boys moved on to a Cambodian premier league club signing youth contracts, launched the Stand Up campaign working alongside girls rescued from risky situations including the sex trade, raised thousands of dollars for local NGO schools and soccer teams to have new uniforms and soccer shoes, and set up community coaching sessions for hundreds of children, both expat and Khmer.
Right now he’s rapt because the academy’s Under-18 team is about to enter the Cambodian Second Division, with the ultimate aim of becoming a premier team and full-time pro club.
While in July this year Charlie was busy breaking the world record, in July last year he was busy taking an 18-member team squad to Sweden to compete in the Gothia Cup, the world’s largest youth tournament.
This led to a Washington Post headline which read, “Underdog Cambodian youth soccer team debuts on world stage.”
“The Gothia Cup was an incredible experience,” Charlie says. “Result-wise we struggled, but performance-wise we were excellent in 90 percent of our games. We played teams from Sweden, USA, Portugal, Norway and Lebanon.”
It was an incredible experience for the boys to travel to a foreign country as different as Sweden and getting a daily dose of rice was at times tricky.
“Rice was an issue,” Charlie says. “But we had Cambodian fans from all over Gothenburg following us around so they were usually bringing snacks for the boys or inviting us to their restaurant.
“My favourite moment came on the second day. On the first night we had a party to welcome us. I was pretty upset with the boys for not helping clean their dinner plates, so we had a team meeting the next day at 4am to go over this.
“At breakfast the boys all lined up to clean their plates. When I showed them the dishwasher, they went crazy, trying to figure out how the magic box worked. It was hilarious.”