Football For Hope visits Cambodia’s dream fields
© FIFA.com

FIFA's Football for Hope Movement continues to gather pace this weekend with a visit to Cambodia and review of the work done in addressing the dangers of landmines by one of its newest implementing partners.

Spirit of Soccer, which uses the medium of football coaching clinics to educate children on the threats posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in post-conflict regions of the world, was among the 27 additional programmes recently approved by FIFA as part of its commitment to social responsibility.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter said: "In the cooperation with organisations like Spirit of Soccer and the support of programmes that use football every day as a tool for social and human development, lies the essence of the Football for Hope Movement, and of FIFA's social responsibility."

FIFA's Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Federico Addiechi, along with Juergen Griesbeck, managing director of Streetfootballworld - FIFA's strategic ally in the Football for Hope Movement - will visit the Spirit of Soccer project centred in Battambang, a four-hour drive north of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. The rural province surrounding the Southeast Asian country's second-largest city is an area where, on average, a civilian is killed or maimed every day by exploding mines.

During the four-day mission from 23 to 26 September, the Football for Hope team will meet representatives from the Football Federation of Cambodia, listen to a briefing from Spirit of Soccer officials, chat with coaches and children on the benefits of the programme and collect reports on FIFA-supported projects related to Football for Hope's growth strategy in Asia.

Among the teachers they will observe are the six that have passed Spirit of Soccer's unique training programme and begun working with children from ten primary schools in the Kosh Krolor, Banan and Moung Russey districts of Battambang province. Already, 240 children each day are participating in the football/Mine Risk Education (MRE) sessions.

Also on the itinerary is a trip to a school on the outskirts of Pailin where a 60x40-metre field, recently cleared of mines, has been bulldozed, graded and rolled. Posts have been erected and three small pitches have been drawn on the previous no-go land. This month 500 children are expected to compete in a five-day football camp with the goal being to create a five-a-side league.

Spirit of Soccer's Executive Director Scotty Lee said: "No child should ever be denied the right to play sport because of landmines. The message is simple: don't play with landmines, play football. I want to give them the dream."

A legacy of three decades of war, there exists an estimated four-to-six million landmines or Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in Cambodia. Many of the victims are children tampering with the bombs. Although 2006 registered 450 casualties from landmines - almost half the figure of the previous 12 months - this year has seen an increase in incidents involving children.

Currently incorporating close to 60 programmes in 40 countries, the objective of the Football for Hope Movement is to support, advise and strengthen sustainable social and human development programmes in the areas of health promotion, children's rights and education, peace building, anti-discrimination and social integration, and the environment.

By drawing on its huge potential, football is doing its part in contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Following the example set by the industrialised nations in 2002 with their agreement to earmark 0.7% of their gross domestic product for international development aid, FIFA has also decided to invest at least the same percentage of its overall income in social and human development towards football throughout the world.