Monday, March 30, 2009

Cambodia Promotes Women’s Football

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) plans to promote the women players in the increasingly popular game of football in order to help overcome the cultural obstacles for Cambodian women and highlight women’s standing in society.

Phoeung Sakona, Secretary of State at MoEYS, said the ministry has established training centers in cities and provinces for students and girl football players at all levels, primary to high school.

Since 2006, MoEYS has conducted training courses for coaches and for both male and female football players from cities and provinces, according to Sakona.

She said MoEYS also organizes student sport competitions, including football competitions with female participants, in schools every year.

“Of all the sports, football is one of the most popular games for Cambodian people, and not only Cambodian men prefer to watch football competitions but also women,” Sakona said during her opening remarks delivered to the FIFA Women’s Football Com-Unity Seminar on March 23 in Phnom Penh. The three-day seminar was sponsored by the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) in cooperation with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Sakona continued to say that MoEYS had increased the expenditures to promote the sport among female football players of 10 million riel in 2008 to 12 million riel in 2009.

“We hope that through MoEYS’ hard work and preparation we will be able to select potential women football players to attend national and international football competitions in future,” Sakona said.

Sao Sokha, Chief of the Military Police and President of the FFC, said the seminar paved the way for Cambodia in promoting the development of women’s football and organizing future women’s football competitions in Cambodia.

Although football is continuing to enjoy its rapid rise in popularity, participation and profile among men, women’s football is still trying to claim a place in Cambodian society, especially at the grassroots level, Sokha said.

He said the Royal Government of Cambodia has embraced globalization in all aspects of social development, and gender equality is one of the top priorities on its agenda.

“Since 2006, MoEYS has introduced football to boys and girls by staging annual tournaments in primary through high schools,” Sokha said at the FIFA seminar. “Although the standard is still far from satisfaction to compete internationally, we are proud and hopeful to see that more and more girls are playing and benefiting from this beautiful game.”

Sokha said that the FFC will hold the first ever Cambodian Women’s Football competition at the end of this year.

He added that his organization plans to make women’s football competitions more enjoyable for people in Cambodia in next 10 years.

He said on its part, FFC has also been cooperating with many NGOs to promote the women’s football. Organizations such as the Indochina Starfish Foundation, the Sport and Leadership Academy, and Spirit of Soccer are just some testimonies of how football can be a powerful source of promoting and shaping life skills such as education, health, social cohesion, physical and spiritual strength, encouragement and understanding. These are qualities that much needed to rebuild Cambodia, which is still being haunted by past tragedy, he said.

“With everybody’s involvement, I strongly believe that football will have positive impacts, as it does for men, on a successful contribution to raise attention and awareness for women,” Sokha said. “We are helping ourselves and both will move forward dynamically.”

Maryrilian Cruz Blanco, FIFA’s Women’s Football Development Manager, said that the systematic development of women’s football is one of FIFA’s priorities.

Blanco said the development of women’s football not only includes financial support but also provides the necessary platform in order to give female players, coaches, referees and officials the infrastructure to become actively involved in the game.

FIFA is helping to increase the popularity of the game as well as to overcome the cultural obstacles for women, and improving women’s standing in society, she said. In recent years, FIFA has made significant efforts to promote women’s football and to help empower its member associations develop the women’s game for the future.

Since 2005, FIFA has been obligated to spend 15 percent of their financial assistance program funds to support grassroots and youth programs, develop general infrastructure and hold competitions for women’s football, said Blanco.

Football has also proved to be a great path for social development, providing governments and organizations with a tool through which they can develop their programs and educate future generations in the Kingdom of Cambodia, she continued.

Currently, there are a total of 18 women’s football teams in Cambodia, according to FFC.
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