For 16-year-old Sang Keo, throwing his body across the goal line in Glasgow’s George Square is the culmination of a dream that’s lasted almost half his life. After years spent watching his countrymen make the cut for Homeless World Cup squads he can’t quite believe he’s here and that his team will be in the Globe trophy finals, facing Sweden, on the last day of competition
The middle of three children, his father left the family a number of years ago and his mother sells food in the streets of Phnom Penh to support the family.
“We live by the river in a temporary shelter and we will soon have to move on as there are plans to develop the area,” he explains. “I was a good student when I was younger but then I had to drop out as we didn’t have enough money for me to stay at school.”
Having been given support through a local non-governmental organisation, the Riverkids Foundation, that led to training with Happy Football Cambodia, Homeless World Cup’s national partner in Cambodia. “I kept training hard and working towards my dream of attending the Homeless World Cup, so now that dream is true.”
This vision is coming to fruition but Sang has had to put another of his dreams on the back burner, for the time being.
As Sang explains, “Before I came to Homeless World Cup I planned to learn the skills to be a hairdresser. But if I had gone to train for this I would have to pay for the course and the training would take three to six months. Then how could I support my family?”
“I don’t want my younger brother to drop out of school, like I had to do,” he continues, “and my older sister who is at high school, her small job doesn’t bring in much money.”
With the onus on Sang to get a job to support his family, he went to work for an uncle who has a café.
“I’ll keep working in the café, to help my family,” he says, “and if that doesn’t bring in enough money I will move to another job.”
And football? “I’ll keep playing football when I have free time because it keeps me fit and healthy. In my village we have many players but they just play for fun. Here it’s been very exciting to meet people from around the world, who respect each other and respect our sport.”
There are over 100 million people who are homeless around the world. The Homeless World Cup is a unique global movement using football to inspire homeless people to change their own lives.
Words by Isobel Irvine - firstname.lastname@example.org