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McManaman passing on uniting message

Steve McManaman in Cambodia
  • Steve McManaman and his daughter visited NGO in Cambodia
  • Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) based in country’s capital Phnom Penh
  • ISF receive funding from FIFA Foundation’s Community Programme

Even in a world that is made much smaller by the immediate and broad sharing of information online, it is quite difficult to teach your children directly about those who are raised in a starkly different environment. The most straightforward way is to meet and engage directly with people from a range of upbringings, in order for your offspring to learn humility, and cherish what they have.

This was the method used by FIFA Legend Steve McManaman during a recent visit to the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) in Cambodia, during which he was accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter Ella. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and England star and his daughter spent time with visually-impaired children, and those diagnosed with HIV, who are given access to education, healthcare and sport in an effort to lift their communities out of poverty.

“My daughter is old enough now to be able to understand and take it on board,” McManaman told FIFA.com. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to take her. I wanted to show her that life is not just about going to a nice school and getting lots of presents for your birthday and Christmas, and everybody’s happy.

“When she saw these visually-impaired and blind children, kicking a ball around and following the bell in a ball, other kids who have got HIV, and can just about afford the kit and shoes they’ve got and when we saw the places that they sleep – it really did bring it home. I made sure she took videos and pictures to take home and show her younger sister and brother that this is the real world.”

The children that McManaman and his daughter spent time with during their visit are identified and aided by ISF - who receive funding via the FIFA Foundation’s Community Programme – an organisation that, through a multitude of programmes, try to achieve their vision of ‘a society free from poverty and inequality.’

“We take an education for granted in England,” McManaman continued. “You reach a certain age and you go to nursery, secondary school and then potentially off to university.

“We met kids who have no education whatsoever, who just wake up in the morning at a young age and are sent out of the house to scavenge and try to get anything they can to help their parents make ends meet.”

In a country in which less than five per cent of young people will finish high school, poverty strips children not only of their childhood but their education and vital life skills taught through playing and interacting with their peers. Through ISF’s education, football and community development projects, the organisation is supporting those most in need to try and break the cycle of poverty.

Steve McManaman in Cambodia

“We went to the [ISF] school, and these people didn’t have anything, yet they were making cards for me and my daughter, it was really touching,” McManaman said. “I come from a very working-class background in Liverpool, when I was younger I didn’t have anything - but me not having anything in that context is nowhere near the same as what I witnessed there. You have to appreciate absolutely everything that you have.”

The FIFA Legend concluded with a strong message about the beautiful game.

“Football unites everybody,” McManaman said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re privileged or not, anybody can get on the pitch and kick a ball around and everybody’s equal. These kids haven’t got anything to their name, yet when I was going to their houses – the amount of kids running around with football shirts on, it just shows the reach that football has got.

“If you can help people in any walk of life, either at home or elsewhere across the world, you should do that.”

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