News “I can play like a man, like a boy. I can play football, why can’t girls play football?”

HFCA star Srey Chi recently won the 2020 HFCA Scott Neeson female player of the year trophy.

Her success gathered a lot of attention in the Cambodian mainstream media and social media and our fans wanted to learn more about the person behind the footballer so in her own words Srey Chi describes her journey from a young girl growing up a small village to success in the capital city Phnom Penh. 

“I had never got an award before so I was happy a lot. It was a surprise,” says Srey Chi, of her award. “I always get a lot of appreciation from my friends and the coach when I play football.”

As a child, there was little time or the means for playing sports seriously. Srey Chi’s mother was widowed when her husband died of an illness, leaving her as the main breadwinner, bringing up four children alone. Toiling away in a rice field with Srey Chi’s two eldest sisters to provide for the family was hard work, continuing as she remarried and had three further children.  Srey Chi could see how hard her mothers life had become saying ''My mother became a breadwinner who had to bring up all the children on her own''

Srey Chi as a young girl with her beloved Grandmother, then a Buddist Nun and her brother. Image CCF.

Realising that education was a way out for her youngest children, she sent Srey Chi and her brother to live with their grandmother, then a Buddhist nun and living in a pagoda in Phnom Penh.

Describing her new life in Phnom Penh “We live in a hut built on a pagoda campus,” Srey Chi says of this time, “There are five people living in the hut; my grandmother, me, my brother, another nun and her grandson. My grandma brings me up with a very small income which she gets from other people who invite her to a ceremony at their house or sometimes from the kindness of people who go to the pagoda.”

Srey Chi home in the capital city Phnom Penh was in the above hut in a Buddist Pagoda/Monastery. Image CCF

Sadly, Srey Chi’s grandmother passed away a while back and was not able to see her granddaughter win the football award, or watch her passion for the game flourish beyond expectations. One of the first people Srey Chi did call to share the news of the award was her mum, who still lives in the province. “I told her that I had appeared in newspapers in public too,” says Srey Chi. “She was really happy for me and she encouraged me to do more.”

Srey Chi at her new home at the CCF Girls to Grannies Village enjoys some down time with fellow students. Image CCF.

Srey Chi joined HFCA from our partner (CCF) Cambodian Children's Fund in 2017 and goes to school at the amazing CCF Neeson Cripps Academy and lives in a brand new residential care facility known as the Girls to Grannies Village. Having access to a top class education and a safe and loving home space means that when Srey Chi comes to training or playing matches for HFCA she can give her all! 

Srey Chi (bottom row far right) with her HFCA U18 Girls team mates at the 2019 Smart Community Cup. Image P Grogan.

Srey Chi has always been one of our more reserved CCF students. However, from the first time she set foot on the football pitch, she came alive, demonstrating a level of confidence and agility that I had never seen. Her time playing and training with HFCA has honed those skills and the confidence has spilled into her everyday life.

- Scott Neeson, Founder Cambodian Children's Fund
Srey Chi as a young girl and now as a confident young woman finding her place in the world throught her beloved sport football. Images CCF.

Girls can play football as good, or better, as boys. I feel playing football is my talent, what I should be doing,” says Srey Chi.

Interview with Srey Chi by Kate Ginn/CCF

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