BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
Young Cambodian football players have attended a friendly competition over one week from June 1-8, 2009 in Japan. The delegation included 18 players below the age of 15, 3 coaches and 1 medical doctor.
They join other youth football players from the Mekong River region including teams from Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Many of the games, including the final match will be held in the Japanese capital Tokyo, according to the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths Program (JENESYS).
Sao Sokha, Chief of the Military Police and President of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), said that this marked the first time for Cambodian players to participate in the youth tournament. He said participation would allow Cambodian competitors to improve and provide the opportunity to exchange techniques and playing experiences in preparation for future international competitions. Teamwork and solidarity will also be encouraged and the tournament will strengthen regional understanding, according to Sokha.
“I feel really enthusiastic about the JENESYS Program,” Sokha continued. “It is the right program for the youth and humanity in general as it promotes development, solidarity and peace on a global scale, sing the global language of football,” he said, standing at the departure ceremony at Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh on June 1. “I hope that this program will have an energizing effect on Cambodian sport.”
Yasuhiko Kamada, First Secretary in Charge of the Culture and Information Section in the Embassy of Japan in Cambodia said that during the team’s visit to Japan, they would face international competition from home teams and others from the Mekong River region. He also noted that the teams would stay in Japan for nine days
Yasuhiko said the teams will stay together for over nine days in Japan and will be playing some of the games in Fukushima Prefecture about 200 kilometers north of Tokyo.
“It is expected that this program will enable members of the youth teams to promote mutual understanding and foster friendship among themselves as well as cultivating their skills in football,” Yasuhiko said.
Yasuhiko continued to say that the Japan Football Association (JFA) supports this program. This organization is dedicated to the development of physical and mental health and the encouragement of international understanding through sports.
Last year, 160 young Cambodian people visited Japan through various short stay programs under the JENESYS Program. One such memorable event was the 55th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan.
The program came into being at the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in January 2008. There it was decided that 2009 would be designated “The Mekong-Japan Exchange Year” to encourage cross-cultural understanding between Mekong region countries and Japan, said Yasuhiko. The program is based on an original plan announced by Mr. Shinzo Abe, Former Prime Minister of Japan during the time of the second East Asia Summit (EAS), held in January 2007.
Sok Veasna, 15, is a grade 7 student of Yukunthor Secondary School in Phnom Penh. He also plays football for the Preah Khan Reach Football Club. He will play his part in the friendship competitions in Japan.
Veasna said that he was overjoyed to be picked to represent his nation in Japan. He said he was looking forward to picking up some new skills and getting an insight into a new culture during his stay in Japan. He pledged also to do his best and bring honor to his parents, his school, his club and his country.
According to Yasuhiko, the youth exchange programs are backed up by a budget of 35 billion Yen. Overall, around 6,000 young people visit Japan on exchange schemes, mainly from ASEAN countries, Australia, China, India, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea. This has helped to establish a basis for Asian solidarity from the youthful roots upwards.
The JENESYS Program sees East Asian youths invited to Japan, Japanese youths sent to East Asia and other exchange activities, said Yasuhiko. He added that the program would increase understanding among young people who will go on to assume important future roles in East Asia. ////