Twelve young footballers, who live and study through Scott Neeson’s Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), have been selected to represent Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) at an U16 football tournament in Singapore.
The JSSL 7s tournament will be held from April 7-9. The 12 girls, aged from 13 to 15, were selected from among the many who train with HFCA, an NGO.
HFCA was established in 2005, and aims to empower impoverished youth in Cambodia through football.
“We aim to ensure that poor youth have the right to a high quality education and the opportunity to gather. Football helps with welfare, mental health, self-respect and more importantly provides a path to more opportunities for homeless children. The soft skills that they develop will help them to achieve success in education and work,” said Paraic Grogan, HFCA founder.
He believed that joining an overseas football tournament for the first time would be a unique opportunity for the girls to acquire more experiences and new life skills.
“I am so excited that the girls from the CCF have been selected to represent HFCA at the JSSL 7s in Singapore. This will give them the opportunity to see something new and further develop themselves. We thank the HFCA and Grogan for working hard day and night to make this happen,” said Scott Neeson, at a March 28 press conference.
Grogan explained that the JSSL 7s was established in 2013, with 40 teams participating. In 2017, the JSSL was added to the professional academy circuit. Since then, famous professional clubs from Europe such as Liverpool, Manchester Utd, Arsenal FC, Barcelona FC, Atletico Madrid and Valencia FC have joined the men’s and women’s tournaments.
“This year is the eighth anniversary event, 400 teams have been entered. With 5,000 players from 15 countries, this is the largest youth tournament in Asia. We will play five seven-a-side matches, each lasting 22 minutes,” he said.
“This is a historic event. It is the first time we have sent a women’s team abroad, and we know that there will be many talented teams at the event. The standard of play will be high, but we know that our girls will use that as motivation to improve and become more advanced players in the future. Our main goal is to encourage more girls to participate inn sports,” he added.
The twelve players were ecstatic at the chance to prove their mettle on the international stage. This will be the first time any of them have left the country, and they looked forward to opportunity. The girls from the CCF are determined to use what they have learned in the five months they have trained together to compete with the strongest teams at the event.
“I am very happy we were selected for the competition in Singapore this time. This is an amazing opportunity to gain new experiences that we can use to develop ourselves,” said Chum Chanthou.
“Although the other teams that are participating in this event are all strong ones that w know we need to learn from, we are not afraid! We will show them how strong we are, and we have the confidence to do it,” she added.
Harvey Davis, founder of the JSSL 7s tournament, was pleased to welcome the Cambodian women’s team.
“The JSSL is very excited. HFCA will become the first Cambodian team to enter Asia’s biggest youth football tournament. Welcoming the representatives from Cambodia is a great achievement,” Paraic quoted Davis as saying.