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Cambodia’s homeless shine

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times Share:
Seng Saray shoots for goal in Cambodia’s opening match against South Korea. Paraic Grogan

A team of seven Cambodian football players are competing at the Homeless World Cup in Oslo, Norway, an annual football tournament that aims to energise homeless people to change their lives.

Team Cambodia were drawn in a strong group including reigning champions Mexico, as well as Italy, Germany, Romania and South Korea.

Arriving on Monday after a 25-hour flight, the Cambodians were soon into the swing of things, recording a defeat of Asian heavyweights South Korea on Tuesday.

Cambodia had Sakpich Mut to thank as the Cambodian Children’s Fund youngster was in an irrepressible mood, slamming in five goals in a 7-5 win.

Mut continued his fine form on Wednesday, the Khmer youngster playing a role in the team’s sensational victory over superpowers Germany – a 5-3 win in their Wednesday opener.

The day’s later match pitted the Cambodians against a strong Italy side and they suffered their first setback in the competition.

The strong Italian side were rocked by Cambodia’s performance. Despite Italy going 1-0 up early on, the Khmers fought back to level at 1 -1.

Italy then took the lead again two minutes before the first half ended, but again Cambodia pegged it back to send the sides into the break level at 2-2.

Goals continued to flow in the second half until the score reached 4-4 and both teams looked set to share the spoils.

However, Italy broke Cambodian hearts by scoring with the last kick of the game.

Coach James Campbell said he was proud of Cambodia’s fearless young squad and looked forward to a successful campaign as they search for an improvement on previous competitions.

“In this match against South Korea, I think the players were a bit overawed,” he said. “But they got over the first hurdle and the experience should set them up for the remainder.”

In 2016, Cambodia secured a Men’s Globe award and Chan Minea took home the Best Male Player award.

Cambodia has been represented for the last 10 years, thanks to the efforts of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) organisation, which has coordinated the team’s appearances at the event.

The Homeless World Cup has been running every year since 2003, when only 18 teams took part.

This year, 72 teams from 52 countries took part – 48 men’s teams and 24 women’s sides. The 2017 tournament will run until Tuesday.

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