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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Fever Pitch

Considering that up until two weeks ago I wasn’t even aware that there’s a World Cup this year, I’ve suddenly found myself in the midst of all the football fever – and seem to be organizing a football match.

It all started when fellow volunteer Oly Shipp stopped over at Jen’s Hotel on his way to some medical meeting. Over a cup of tea and a biscuit (I take payment in foodstuffs) he casually drew my attention to an e-mail we’d gotten about a month ago that asked volunteers to organise a football match as part of the 1GOAL campaign. I remember getting that e-mail, seeing the word ‘football’ and pressing DELETE.

Well. Oly is a male volunteer, and these are few and far between out here in Cambodia. So I must admit my heart-strings were tugged when he started exclaiming just how much it would mean to him to be able to play in a football match. Wouldn’t I help organise it?

Always keen to have something to do, yes, I said – I would. What does he need? Not too much,
I was assured. It’s just a football match, how hard could it be to organise? Well, indeed. So I committed to organising a match at one week’s notice. Oh, and then Oly tells me he’s going to be away until Wednesday. The match was to be on the following Saturday. Do I mind?

Actually, organizing the match was surprisingly easy. Nevermind that we showed up to the training match without a football. Even the best made plans have glitches.

1GOAL is an event piggy backing off World Cup fame, aimed at raising awareness for education. There are 72 million children worldwide that are still being denied the opportunity to attend school, and by signing the petition at a local 1GOAL event, world leaders can see just how much people across the globe support the concept of Education For All. We got 340 signatures to add to this petition - the majority from children.

The grand plan: A football match between VSO volunteers and Ministry of Education Staff. Both teams must have at least two female players. VSO will provide t-shirts, the Ministry a referee and Linesmen and we got the local arts school to provide some of their drummers for added effect.

I have to say, considering we threw it together in a week – the morning went really well! There were loads of spectators, a good team spirit, music, banners, cheering… Never mind that the ‘Education For All' banners actually turned out to be second hand from an old drugs campaign, the message was there (VSO also provided a couple of banners) and everyone was in high spirits. We turned up the evening before to find kids doing some litter collection and the Ministry painting new white lines on the community football pitch. We bought some new sand for the goals and have left a new set of goal posts as a donation to the community.

It was great. And the best part was that everyone was involved: Education volunteers, health volunteers, translators, community members, ministry education staff, the local arts school and an ever growing selection of random children. A brilliant Saturday morning. We even ended up on the local news!

Now, I have no idea how England are doing in the World Cup this year. But our score? VSO [6] : Ministry of Education [4]. A new England squad in the making?


  1. Jen and football? No, I can't get my head round that one. They did say the year in Cambodia would change you. Your brothers will be most impressed!
    On a serious note, it sounds like just the thing your 'job spec' asked for.
    Love and hugs,
    Mum xx

  2. Hi Jen

    Writing this I'm feeling apologetic about not posting a reply to your legendary blogs. It makes better reading than the Sun or Daily Mirror anyday!

    Good work in organising the football and loved hearing of the commuinity spirit. I reckon England need some of that spirit the way they looked against zie Germans!

    Take care and keep up the good work