KMH Academy Opens Doors for Youth in Sports

Article by

Luka D’Amato

The KMH U18 CUP kicked off another tournament in their ongoing efforts to create more opportunities for Cambodian youth. This year, the U18 tournament hosts seven teams, including the KMH Football Foundation’s own KMH Academy U18 team, Cafe Youth U18, as well as five professional teams: Phnom Penh Crown U17, Svay Rieng U18, Boeung Ket U18, EDC U18 and Visakha U17.

The KMH Academy, a part of ISI GROUP’s KMH Foundation, is a football training academy that seeks to improve youth access to sports, help players develop personally and academically, as well as build professional sports in Cambodia. The KMH Foundation organizes Cambodia’s largest semi-professional tournaments, including the KMH Champions League. The young players who are cultivating their skills through the KMH Academy have access to the KMH U18 CUP and KMH Champions League as they push through the ranks, offering huge opportunity for their professional development.

This year, the KMH Academy is signing paid contracts with their U18 players, as well as live streaming and recording matches to showcase player’s talents. These new systems allow the KMH Academy to create value and developmental history behind their players.

The KMH Academy U18 Team pictured before a match at the KMH Stadium.

Without records, the players have no history behind their development or what they have learned and, according to Dr. Ken Gadaffi, KMH Foundation Marketing Consultant, when players go to compete professionally, or outside the country, they are given a low value.

The new contract and player evaluation systems allow the KMH Academy to boost the potential value of their budding stars, helping them negotiate better contracts with professional clubs.

“It increases the value of the player. This is the key advantage of having the academies. If you just pick up the player from the street and say that he is a good player – he has no history, no record,” said Dr. Gadaffi.

These developments mark significant advancements for the KMH Academy, however, the personal development of their players outside of sports remains just as important to the programs. As a part of supporting personal development, the KMH Academy ensures that all players on their teams are attending school. “They cannot skip one and do the other. . . Football is one part, but they need to study,” said Siek Sovann, KMH Foundation Senior Program Manager. When a player is not attending school, KMH Academy staff go to speak with them and their family personally, Mr. Siek added.

The KMH Foundation Head Coach, John Botioba added to this, saying “The main point needs to be youth education first – to let them understand what life is. You cannot teach football to someone who doesn’t have an education.”

Pictured left to right – Siek Sovann, KMH Foundation Program Manager; Sen Kang, Co-Founder & Program Director; and John Botioba, Head Coach.

The benefits of the KMH Academy and football also extend into cultivating life skills. Sports build character, instilling positive values and providing mentorship opportunities for young players.

“Through the Academy, kids learn that they can never be failures. They can lose, but that doesn’t mean they are failures … Sports are also about controlled discipline – players need to come to training regularly and on time. Through sports, players learn about friendship, respect and competition,” Dr. Gadaffi said. “Not everybody succeeds playing sports, but the lessons they learn will last forever,” he added.

“Because of the current school structure, there are no sports. When I saw the talent of these kids, I knew they could become something.” – Dr. Ken Gadaffi on why he was inspired to help build sports in Cambodia.

The impacts of the KMH Academy youth programs are strong and the organization’s continuous drive to improve access to sports and help youth into adulthood is inspiring. In the KMH Academy, inspiration lies within all involved – the coaches, management, players and community – who are working together to build pride, promote positive values, teach life lessons and provide opportunities for those willing to work for it.

“We start from the grassroots and think about everything,” Mr. Siek said, talking about their approach to further developing the KMH Academy programs. For Mr. Siek, his inspiration comes from his time playing football, seeing younger kids in his community with a longing to play but no knowledge of the sport.

Issues ranging from low funding to technical knowledge mean that Cambodia faces significant barriers when improving access to youth sports and building programs that guide youth into adulthood. Despite this, the KMH Academy continues to take its skills, both on and off the field, to score victories for Cambodia’s youth. With plans to initiate more youth programs that teach kids skills and values at an earlier age, as well as an U20 team to expand growing players’ access to professional leagues, the KMH Academy has their goals set high. The KMH Academy also hopes to increase their outreach into the provinces, as well as bring international teams to Cambodia to play against them.

I learned something from others and gave that to [the players]. I cannot keep it; I need to share my experience. I want to see them become more than me.” – Head Coach John Botioba on his coaching philosophy.

The KMH Academy Programs, a part of the KMH Foundation, are proudly supported by ISI GROUP. The KMH Foundation focuses its activities in the key areas of Education, Healthcare, Sport and Housing. Click here to read more about the foundation’s work to create and build a better living for all.