Coach goes back to basics

FNC representatives Harry Liebke, Gavin Whitney and Georgia Keen are surrounded by Cambodian schoolchildren during their recent trip.
FNC representatives Harry Liebke, Gavin Whitney and Georgia Keen are surrounded by Cambodian schoolchildren during their recent trip.

"I HAD never been to Cambodia before, so I went with an open mind.

"There was a massive difference between life there and here. The standard of living there wasn't too bad but people were living in shanties.

"People were harvesting things on the farms by hand and also having baths by the side of the road in the ditch at the side of the road. This water would be used later for the fields.

"It seemed to me that people work for a day to feed themselves at night so there are no means of saving money for a nice house or things like that. Most people didn't have the means to get to a big city like (the capital) Phnom Penh, so they had to grow their own food to feed themselves.

"It definitely makes you appreciate what we have got here.

"It never got below 27 degrees (celsius) at night and it was about 30-35 degrees during the day but the humidity was really high. It made things tough.

"I think there was one grassed area we used (as a pitch). Mostly the pitches were clay and sand.

"When we put the cones out to mark the pitches, the kids were looking at them like, 'what the hell are those'. It was simple things like that we take for granted here.

"These were children who play football with plastic bags tied together to make a ball, yet their hand/eye co-ordination skills and things like that were three times more advanced that similar children here. Just things like juggling with the ball, they would pick up very quickly.

"I think because they have to work every day to survive and they aren't exposed to things like Playstations and computer games, they just had better skills and were able to pick things up very fast.

"We were doing some simple passes with girls who were nine-years old. Once they picked it up, they were putting what they'd learned into action. These were kids who may not have had anything but a tin can to kick around before.

"Once word got out we were coming, more and more children were coming along each day. Some of them were wearing Juventus and Barcelona shirts from 10 or 15 years ago that had been distributed by charities.

"As a coach I would love to get a handful of these kids together and have three months with them. You would not believe what you could achieve.

"I guess it showed that football truly is the global game.

"I think sometimes the game can be over-governed. An experience like that makes you realise that when it comes down to it, football is about two teams and a ball. If you are not enjoying it, you might as well give up.

"For me, it was a tremendous experience and a real eye-opener."

WHAT IS THE BANKING ON FOOTBALL SCHEME?

The scheme, which is run in partnership with the Credit Union Foundation Australia, aims to help fight poverty in the south-east Asian country through football. It involved teaching schoolchildren more about financial literacy and rewarding them with small games of football, equipment and coaching.

Some 30%of Cambodia's population of 15 million live below the poverty line.

For more information on the trip and the scheme, visit http://www.summerland.com.au or http://www.bankingonfootball.com.au.

Georgia Keen and some of the Cambodian schoolchildren show their football skills.
Georgia Keen and some of the Cambodian schoolchildren show their football skills.
Harry Liebke and a new friend.
Harry Liebke and a new friend.


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