| PHNOM PENH (2 Dec 2008) – Dozens of disadvantaged kids went home recently with new football skills, Inter Milan jerseys and stickers after a four-day football clinic conducted by Inter Campus – the youth development wing of Italian football giants Inter Milan.
The programme brought a touch of Italian football to 60 disadvantaged youths in a four-day clinic that could herald a permanent program in Cambodia.
The 60 participants, who received training from two roving Inter Campus coaches, Gabriele Raspelli and Fabrizio Piccareta, came from four organisations supporting poor children in Phnom Penh – the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), Riverkids, Happy School and the Center for Children to Happiness.
Thirteen-year-old Hor Vannara said hopes that the free training could help him become ‘the best football player’ in the world.
“My friends and I from the (ISF) centre gained a lot of experience and learned new techniques from the foreign coaches,” said Vannara.
“We are kicking better and passing the ball better.”
Kate Griffin, an ISF social worker, said the children were so eager to begin playing that they arrived at the grounds early for the clinic.
“Some of them asked me whether they could play football once again on Friday rather than going to school,” she said.
Apart from the clinic, the two coaches also took some time to visit the Stung Meanchey rubbish dump, where some of the youths who participated in the Inter Campus clinic live and work.
Raspelli said that in his four-year career with Inter Campus, which has taken him to such locations as Morocco, China and Slovakia, the grinding poverty of Stung Meanchey was among the most disturbing he had seen.
“I want to remember the visit because their situation is so unfair. It is so hard to imagine that small kids live in this rubbish,” he said.
The four-day football clinic this week was the brainchild of Melbourne-based social worker Paraic Grogran, co-founder of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia, who has been working to bring Inter Campus to Cambodia since meeting Piccareta and Raspelli in 2006.
The two coaches are now talking with their management about setting up a permanent Inter Campus football training centre in Cambodia.
Inter Campus has football schools in 18 locations around the world and the financing of the projects differs from place to place depending on the level of local funding provided.