Finding faith in football

With the Premier League season underway, we look at how football is changing the lives of young people in Cambodia.

Charya* has loved playing football since he was a little boy. Even as a married father of three, he still takes any opportunity he can to play. When he became pastor of a church, he wanted to share his passion for both Christ and football with local people.

Just a game
‘Many pastors think of football as just a game,’ says Charya. ‘They believe that sport and football are not suitable as ministries. And so they don’t allow their youth to form a church football team. They miss the opportunity to enrich people’s faith through sport.’

Charya started a football team for young people, but realised that he didn’t have the skills to run it as a ministry. ‘I was unable to manage it well. So when people came to play football, they only thought about fun and nothing else.’

Nuon* (right) at a training session with the two local church teams she helped to set up. Photo: EFC

Learning to lead
In 2017, Charya attended a sports training course run by Tearfund partner Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia (EFC). This helped him to learn more about the technical aspect of managing a sports team in a faith context.

‘I now lead my football team more effectively,’ he says. ‘I understand a clear process of leadership and managing my team, and I am also making disciples.’

During the team’s monthly fixtures, Charya takes the opportunity to chat with other pastors in the province and encourage them to set up football teams in their churches. He also suggests that their youth leaders attend the training with EFC.

Changing attitudes
Nuon*, a youth leader, attended the training in June 2019. ‘It opened my eyes and I learnt all about sports ministry,’ says Nuon. ‘It has empowered me from the inside out. Looking back, I thought football was just a game. I hadn’t realised that it can help people to understand the gospel.’

After attending the training, Nuon set up two football teams in her church. They train every Thursday and Sunday evening. ‘I really enjoy training the boys and girls, because I see their change in attitude after just one or two sessions.’

PLEASE PRAY

Dear God,
Thank you so much for the joy of sport, and for the way it can bring people together. Please continue to bless the work of EFC in Cambodia, so that many more lives can be impacted for good. We pray that similar initiatives will spread around the world.
Amen

*Names have been changed to protect identities.