Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Empowering Asia

The PPCFC team with Prince Ali at this morning's press conference - click to enlarge
HRH Prince Ali during today's press conference
I MC'd the press conference for Prince Ali at Raffles Hotel Le Royal this morning. It was the last day of the Prince's three-day visit to Cambodia. As Vice President of FIFA responsible for Asia, but moreso, in his role as Chairman of the Asian Football Development project, an initiative he started himself, the Prince was here to promote and support the fabulous work being done by the Salt Academy and the Mighty Girls programs in Battambang. The AFDP provides sponsorship to the Mighty Girls, who effectively form the Cambodian women's national team. And he was glowing in his comments during his speech at the press conference about the potential he saw in Battambang on Monday, as an example of the empowerment of women through football that he advocates so strongly. He also expressed his admiration for the work Rithy Samnang is doing with grassroots football at Phnom Penh Crown. The common thread is of course Sam Schweingruber who began the Salt Academy and Mighty Girls programs in northwest Cambodia and has now brought that grassroots thrust with him since he joined PPCFC as head coach a few months ago. The Prince remarked that both Samnang and he were of similar ages, with similar dreams and aspirations for the betterment of football, whilst Samnang felt the presence of the Prince at the opening of the new youth league on Sunday morning was a big encouragement for the youngsters to see someone of his world stature at their new competition. Prince Ali also commended the Football Federation of Cambodia, whom he will give 500 footballs to for their grassroots endeavours, with vice president Khiev Sameth confirming that the FFC will begin its own youth academy at the end of this year. Commenting on the problems that FIFA have been experiencing in some quarters, the Prince felt it was healthy that problems are aired and dealt with in a transparent way and that a world body should have no secrets. He spoke positively and passionately about Asian football, emphasizing the importance of focusing on grassroots, infrastructure and developing coaches to uncover the massive potential that exists within the continent. The Prince was seen off at the airport by a contingent of PPCFC staff and players as he headed for his next destination, a grassroots tournament in Bhutan. His time here was brief but memorable for the impact on so many, helping to put Cambodia on the football map on the international stage.
HRH Prince Ali is flanked by Khiev Sameth of the FFC and Rithy Samnang, President of PPCFC (right)

The PPCFC contingent saying goodbye to Prince Ali and his team at the airport

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