December 10th 2019, 7am.
Soccer players from schools and NGOs from all over Phnom Penh are arriving at Goal Sports Club for the CIA FIRST’s Annual Human Rights Soccer Tournament. This is the 9th installment of the tournament that CIA FIRST has hosted and their guests are milling around the registration area looking for information on water location, toilets, schedules, food options and where they are to leave their gear for the day.
The event, organised by the CIA FIRST International School, aims to promote respect for basic human rights regardless of race, religion and socioeconomic background.
Kick off begins at 7.45 and players are already warming up. HRST organisers man the scoreboards, water and fruit tables. The nurse is settling into their spot in front of pitch 7 where the U10s mixed teams will begin their fierce battles at 8am. The excitement is building and players are gulping back gallons of water already in a bid to hydrate well for the tiring day ahead.
The anxiety is palpable and you could cut the tension with a knife. There are old rivals here. Teams are trying to get a glimpse of each other, estimating who will be stronger and who will be weaker, but of course you can never tell. The shortest player could be the fastest, the skinniest player; the strongest.
The teams are being called to line up on pitch 3 by CIA FIRST Administrator Andre Struve and soon it is kick off. Thirty one teams in total are ready for battle. We have CIA FIRST, CIA PP, Horizon International School, Western International School, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, ELT, Cambodian Children’s Fund and AISPP. Some are complete newcomers to this tournament, some are returning participants and some are regularly featured teams.
And what a tournament! There is high stakes and higher tempers. Dives, penalties, delayed games, games on time, mistaken identities, water consumption by the gallon, hungry players, loud supporters, wistful parents, encouraging coaches and blaring music!
The day progresses in a flurry and in the blink of an eye, Andre is back and presenting trophies to CIA FIRST, PSE, CCF, WISC, AISPP and more. There is an acknowledgement of the need to raise awareness of Human Rights and the right to education. Players look around and see the banners decorating the venue that throws out different facts and consider themselves lucky that they are amongst the students of the world.
The excitement ebbs as the teams depart and the maintenance teams begin their deconstruction, leaving no trace, as if we were never there. Until next time.
Commenting on the event, Andre Struve the Administrative Director at the school said that “it is especially important for us, as an educational institution, to develop young minds in order for them to form personal principles. Everyone has the right to play sports. We encourage teamwork and collaboration, we celebrate successes but also seek to build a community free from discrimination.”
This year the event hosted 600 children, ages 6 - 18 years old, from 10 international schools and NGOs. CIA FIRST’s Corporate community partners will also join in on the festivities including GA Aircon, GA Construction, Monument Books and Toys and Roomchang Dental Clinic.
“Together we create a fun-filled environment in support of children’s holistic development,” Struve said.