In a shock announcement, Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) yesterday announced the withdrawal of the Cambodian team from next month’s 2018 Homeless World Cup football tournament to be held in Mexico City, Mexico.
The announcement was made in a press release issued to Khmer Times. “This difficult decision was made due to serious concerns regarding the process required to obtain Mexican visas for HFCA’s eight young Khmer players, including the expectation that they spend an extended period of time – without passports – in neighbouring Thailand waiting for visas to be processed by the Mexican embassy, with additional travel to the embassy in Vietnam for three players. It is HFCA’s belief – shared by partner organisations – that this process would detract from the studies of, and put an undue amount of pressure on, the players, who have come from underprivileged backgrounds and have not previously travelled outside of Cambodia.
Cambodia had been represented in the competition for the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) organisation, which coordinated the team’s appearances at the event.
“We are disappointed by the lack of assistance received from Mexican officials, after six months of negotiations, in obtaining visas for our players to attend the Homeless World Cup – an event that prides itself on inclusiveness and fair opportunities for all”, addded HFCA CEO Paraic Grogan.
“As can be expected, our players are very upset that they will be unable to represent their country next month in Mexico, but we will do all we can to ensure they have the opportunity to compete in Wales, at the 2019 tournament. This is a very disappointing time for our organisation.”
The Homeless World Cup has been running every year since 2003, when only 18 teams took part. Last year saw 72 teams from 48 countries take part in the biggest edition of the event.
Participating in the Homeless World Cup has helped dozens of young Cambodians turn their lives around in the last decade, with some even going on to play professional football.
Among the programmes alumni, Monira Men represented Cambodia at the 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan, Italy. He has since gone on to play professional football in Cambodia.
HFCA say their focus now goes on the 2019 Homeless World Cup which will be hosted in Wales in August 2019.