12 June 2019 dot 4-min read

Phnom Penh, 9 June 2019 – Over the past six months, 100 teams made up of almost 1,500 boys and girls participated in the AIA-ISF Youth League in Phnom Penh. This youth league, however, is no ordinary youth league. Its young, enthusiastic players comprise some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged children in Cambodia, and the league’s impact is changing lives.

Opportunities to engage in competitive sport and access safe and secure grounds to play in are limited for most Cambodian children, especially those from economically deprived backgrounds. Typically, girls have less access than boys and access for disabled children is almost non-existent. However, Indochina Starfish Foundation ("ISF"), an NGO working in Phnom Penh, is offering boys and girls from all backgrounds along with players with physical and intellectual disabilities the rare opportunity to play football, to be physically active, to build valuable life skills and to have fun. 

ISF has been behind grassroots football since its founding in 2006 and currently works with 3,000 underprivileged Cambodian children through training sessions, tournaments, leagues and festivals. ISF’s commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for young players is guided by the principle that every child has the right to play. At the heart of ISF’s youth league is the belief that sport has the potential to combat many of the social challenges facing young people in Cambodia, such as discrimination, lack of education, unemployment and preventable diseases.

AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”), sponsored ISF’s youth league for the second consecutive year this year in alignment with its commitment to reach disadvantaged children and communities and support employment opportunities and healthier life choices. Together, AIA Cambodia and ISF are using football to impart the positive values of teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship on children’s lives. This is in line with the belief that active participation in sport plays a vital role in helping Cambodians live healthier, longer, better lives.

Attending the league closing ceremony today, AIA Cambodia’s management Pauline Teoh said: “Having witnessed and, better yet, having enabled ISF’s impactful work of organising one of Cambodia’s largest community football programmes is something everyone at AIA in Cambodia and at Group’s level is particularly proud of. This adds significant value to our unwavering dedication to helping Cambodians from all backgrounds lead a healthier life, starting from a young age.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) non-communicable diseases are estimated to account for 64% of all deaths in Cambodia. But, the simple adoption of healthier lifestyle choices, such as being physically active, can greatly reduce such diseases. Research demonstrates that just 12 weeks of football training increases maximal oxygen uptake by 10-15% and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, heart disease or stroke by 50%. Aside from improving fitness through building strength, stamina and speed, football players experience a better quality of health due to their improved aerobic and anaerobic capabilities.

Not only is this extraordinary youth league promoting health and well-being where it’s needed most, but it is also promoting female inclusion in sport across Cambodia. Since ISF’s programme started, the number of girls’ teams in the league has more than doubled, which indicates a big shift in football’s role for women and society in Cambodia. This year, the AIA-ISF Youth League provided coaching and tournaments to six divisions of girls and boys in under-10, under-14 and under-18 age brackets, including deaf and hearing-impaired players.

In the league’s weekly training sessions, there is a social impact element that focuses on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address issues such as: gender equality, conflict prevention, health and wellness and other life skills. The coaches act as role models for the players and this is particularly significant when it comes to increasing girls’ participation. “Coming from a society where sport is traditionally considered a pastime or career choice for men only, being coached by women instructors can be a source of inspiration for girls wanting to break into sport,” said coach ISF coach Ranya, speaking at the League’s opening in December 2018.

In 2018, ISF’s inclusive Football Programme won the Asian Football Confederation’s Dream Asia Award and was also shortlisted for the Beyond Sport Global Award 2018 Sport for Health and Wellbeing for using the power of football to forge positive social change in Cambodian society. Speaking ahead of the AIA-ISF Youth League season close, 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 all of our supporters, players and staff for their committed effort in advancing our cause as we celebrate another impactful season”.

This season of the AIA-ISF Youth League closed today with final matches of all divisions from 9am to 4pm at the ISF Sports Ground, located in Preah Theat Village, Phnom Penh. The closing ceremony was attended by all participating children and their coaches, along with ISF and AIA Cambodia’s management.

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 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$230 billion as of 31 December 2018. Through an extensive network of agents, partners and employees across Asia-Pacific, AIA serves the holders of more than 33 million individual policies and over 16 million participating members of group insurance schemes.

AIA Cambodia offers market-leading 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.

About ISF

Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) is an 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 2019. 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 3,000 girls and boys of all abilities, including those with disabilities, hearing impaired, blind and vision-impaired, HIV positive and wheelchair-bound youth in 2019.

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 fourth in the 2018/2019 Premier League season, securing UEFA Champions League qualification for a fourth year in a row and were a Champions League finalist this year for the first time in their history.

Tottenham Hotspur also has:

  • A global following in excess of 400 million, with strong supporter bases across the UK, Europe, USA and Asia
  • Over 190 Official Supporters Clubs worldwide, including a fully mobilised and active Club in Cambodia
  • A newly-built state-of-the-art training centre with a new world class stadium opening soon that will sit at the heart of a major regeneration for North London
  • Commercial partnerships with globally-recognised brands including AIA Group Limited (AIA), one of the world's leading providers of life insurance services, and Nike, the world’s leading sports footwear and apparel company

Media Contacts

Panharath Hak

Public Relations and Communications Manager

AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc

016/017 369 155


Vicheka Chourp

Country Manager

Indochina Starfish Foundation

023 424 236