Phnom Penh, 09 December 2018 – Cambodia’s largest community football programme launched its 6-month youth league for a new season today at the ISF Sports Ground in Preah Theat Village, Phnom Penh. The AIA-ISF Youth league is a joint effort between local charity Indochina Starfish Foundation (“ISF”) and AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) with technical support from AIA’s Global Principal Partner Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (“Spurs”). The league offers boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds the rare opportunity to play football in a safe environment, with the ultimate aim of helping them live healthier, longer and better lives.
Providing weekly coaching and tournaments to 1,455 players around Phnom Penh, the annual league comprises six divisions of girls’ and boys’ teams in the under-10, under-14 and under-18 age ranges. The opportunity to engage in competitive football, and to even access playing fields, is limited for most Cambodian children, especially those who are from an underprivileged background. Typically, girls have less access than boys. Recognising these facts and aligning their commitment towards a healthier Cambodia, ISF and AIA are embarking on their second year of partnership, using football to push for progress and inclusion.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ms. Sok Ranya, an ISF football coach who trains children and young adults of all abilities every week, described the AIA-ISF Youth League as “crucial to the development of healthy lifestyles and of important soft skills such as teamwork and communication.” In their weekly training sessions, coaches also integrate a social impact element to address issues such as gender equality, conflict prevention, health and wellness plus other life skills. Many coaches act as role models for the players and this is particularly significant when it comes to increasing female participation. “Coming from a society where sport is traditionally considered a pastime or career choice for men only, being coached by female instructors/role models can also be a source of inspiration for girls wanting to break into sport,” said Ms. Ranya.
The weekly training sessions also encourage players to develop life skills that allow them to think more constructively in their everyday lives. 14-year-old student Khan Ratha said that the AIA-ISF Youth League has helped her to develop critical-thinking skills and to challenge gender stereotypes through sport. “When I play football, I feel strong and energetic. I can do whatever the boys can do. Football is for everyone!” she exclaimed, adding that when she finishes school, she dreams of becoming a football coach. She described her training sessions and participation in the league as helping her to define her passions and her goals in life, as well as developing discipline, focus and resilience.
Another player, 15-year-old Chhay Theara, said that the AIA-ISF Youth League is one of the best things he invests his time in and that it motivates him to work hard and form healthy lifestyle habits. After joining the league, Theara noticed improvements in his physical health and fitness as well as improvements in his time-management skills and social skills. 15-year old player Sreyneath meanwhile said that the training and tournaments offer an opportunity to escape negative temptations and focus on living a healthier lifestyle, adding that her dedication to football had helped keep her away from drugs, a problem she sees affecting others in her community.
Realising the many impacts of the league, Mr. Richard Bates, CEO of AIA Cambodia, said: “Last year’s league was a tremendous success, and we are proud to partner with ISF again this year to continue making the positive difference to the lives of its many participants and of their families. Through ISF’s comprehensive football program and the support from our partner Tottenham Hotspur FC, we are certain that the impact of this AIA-ISF Youth League is only going to multiply as it progresses towards, and at the same time materializes, a life that is healthier, longer and better for the children taking part.”
Mr. Anton Blackwood, one of the two Spurs coaches attending the opening ceremony, said he was impressed by the dedication of the coaches and passion of the players: “Through AIA, we are able to provide ISF coaches with some key training. Through the enthusiasm of the children here, we believe that the coaches have been making use of the opportunity the league provides to spread the skills and the love of football. This is the sustainable model that AIA and Spurs want to see, and we are delighted to witness it in this league.”
Earlier this year, ISF’s inclusive football programme won the Asian Football Confederation’s Dream Asia Award and was also shortlisted for the Beyond Sport 2018 Sport for Health and Wellbeing Award for promoting the power of football to forge positive social change in Cambodian society. In his remark, ISF Trustee Leo Brogan said: "The partnership with AIA has helped us get to where we are today: impacting the lives of thousands of children and their families for the better. We thank and applaud AIA as well as Spurs for their committed effort in advancing our cause, and we strongly hope that together, the AIA-ISF Youth League this year will yield an even more impactful result.”
About AIA Cambodia
AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIA Group Limited (“AIA” or “the Group”), the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group and the second largest life insurer in the world by market capitalisation.
The Group has a presence in 18 markets in Asia-Pacific – wholly-owned branches and subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Macau, Brunei, Cambodia, a 97 per cent subsidiary in Sri Lanka, a 49 percent joint venture in India and a representative office in Myanmar. AIA is a market leader in the Asia-Pacific region (ex-Japan) based on life insurance premiums and holds leading positions across the majority of its markets. It had total assets of US$216 billion as of 30 November 2017. Through an extensive network of agents, partners and employees across Asia-Pacific, AIA serves the holders of more than 30 million individual policies and over 16 million participating members of group insurance schemes.
AIA Cambodia offers differentiated life insurance products and services to meet the growing need for financial protection and long-term savings of people in Cambodia. AIA Cambodia is committed to contributing to the kingdom’s economic and social development over the long term, and help Cambodians live healthier, longer, better lives.
Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) is an award-winning NGO in Cambodia that believes every child has the right to education, healthcare and play. ISF provides education, healthcare and sporting opportunities to disadvantaged children in Cambodia. In addition, ISF provides support services to the families and wider communities of the children in our education programme to enable them to break the cycle of poverty they are currently trapped in.
ISF has grown from providing basic education opportunities to 18 children in 2006 to almost 700 in 2018. Our plan is to take an additional 100 students into our education programme each year. Through the services provided to the families of the children ISF works with, almost 3,000 additional people are supported.
ISF, with the support of the Football Federation of Cambodia, plays a key role in providing grassroots footballing opportunities to some of Cambodia’s most disadvantaged children. This programme has grown from 50 players in 2006 to almost 4,000 girls and boys of all abilities, including those with disabilities, hearing impaired, blind and vision-impaired, HIV positive and wheelchair-bound youth in 2017.
About Tottenham Hotspur
Founded in 1882, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has a tradition of playing an entertaining and attacking style of football. The team finished third in the Premier League in the 2017/2018 season and has a multi-national squad of players. Tottenham Hotspur also has:
- A global following in excess of 500 million, with strong supporter bases across the UK, the USA, China, Asia and Southern Africa, including more than 150 Official Supporters Clubs worldwide
- A state-of-the-art training centre with the ongoing construction of a new world-class stadium development that will sit at the heart of a major regeneration for North London.
An award-winning Foundation that has created 2.5 million opportunities to help enhance the lives of people in its local community through education, employment, health and social inclusion programmes.