Saturday, December 7, 2013

Panha and his dreams

Sok Panha, his dreams are coming true - click to enlarge
There are many hardship stories in Cambodia. It's a country that you can find them wherever you turn. And Phnom Penh Crown football club is no different. Take the example of one of the newest members of the club's youth Academy, Sok Panha. Born in October 2000, the young midfield-cum-striker was just a month old when his mother left him with his grandfather in their Battambang home, to go and work in Thailand. He has seen her just twice since that time. Panha's father remained in Battambang but was out of a job and was a drug-user, whilst his grandfather was sick and confined to bed. Realising that Panha needed help, his grandfather asked Children's Future International, a non-government organisation in the city, to support the boy's education. For the first time, Panha was able to attend school regularly, in grade 5, and was learning Khmer literature, English and computer studies. He also discovered a love for football, when CFI put a team into the league organised by the SALT Academy in Battambang. And that was when Panha really started to shine. His team were well placed at a couple of tournaments and his own potential was quickly spotted. He was invited by Bouy Dary to try out for the Cambodia national team with U-14 tournaments in Thailand and Myanmar on the horizon and he made the team.

After the squad returned from Myanmar, Panha was invited to join the Crown Academy on a permanent basis, where he now plays football every morning and attends Sovannaphumi School, studying in grade 8, and has hopes to go onto university to study English, his favourite subject, as well as Maths, Physics and Chemistry. The youngster said; "I really wanted to play when I first saw kids playing, as it looked fun and you can make a lot of friends. So I started playing for fun but now I want to work hard to make football my future career." He also has dreams of furthering that career by following in the footsteps of his Academy coach Dary. "I want to be like him. He knows English and he can bring national teams to play in many countries. I really wish to be like him one day in the future." But Panha's story isn't one without heartache. His father died just three months ago, and just twenty days later his beloved grandfather passed away too. It was a very difficult time for the youngster, but he remains positive at the direction his life has now taken, with his teammates giving him a lot of support, his schoolwork continuing to improve and his dreams of becoming a professional footballer taking shape.

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