Friday 25 January 2019, 06:07

SALT Academy: A tale of two girls

  • SALT Academy changes the lives of youngsters in Cambodia

  • Kimhong Huot and Chivey Ban, part of inaugural programme, now women's internationals

  • SALT Academy receives funding from the FIFA Foundation's Community Programme

The impact of football to change lives cannot be understated. The beautiful game has revived the fortunes of a pair of Cambodian girls, with the help of SALT Academy, an NGO dedicated to improving the lives of young people in north-west Cambodia through football.

Kimhong Huot and Chivey Ban were at two separate orphanages in Battambang in 2010 when SALT embarked on projects aimed at helping youth development there. They were among those first recruited into the Mighty Girls team - one of four projects dedicated to youngsters. In the SALT Academy, these girls were provided with accommodation, food and training facilities. In a region where girls can face forced marriage at an early age, and a place where people struggle to make ends meet, the assistance from SALT was a dream come true.

Both worked hard, spending the next six years honing their skills with the Mighty Girls. They went on to impress in the country’s first-ever national women’s championship in 2016. They would continue to develop with local professional club Phnom Penh Crown and today both Kimhong and Chivey are the backbone of the national team. They showed a glimpse of their impressive talents when they scored nine goals between them in Cambodia's 12-0 rout of Timor Leste in the AFF Women’s Championship last June.

"I am proud that finally Cambodia have a women's national team and our Mighty Girls are playing important roles for the country," Sam Schweingruber, Director of SALT Academy, told “This is a good example as for how football can help youngsters, particularly in gaining equal rights for girls. Since 2006 we have reached out to over 5,000 young people from northwestern Cambodia and we will continue this work."

Kimhong has not only captained her country but now has a university scholarship in the USA at Bryant & Stratton College in Syracuse, New York.

"Mighty Girls is the favourite team amongst those I've played for," Kimhong told "I grew up with many amazing women from different backgrounds. We all inspired, encouraged, motivated and shared our problems with each other, which made everybody feel like they weren't the only person who has had a terrible start in life. Mighty Girls isn't just a football team, but we give each other love as a family and learn so many things together. We've been working very hard to become who we are today. Football isn't just a game, it's our life."

SALT Academy is one of a number of organisations supported by the FIFA Foundation's Community Programme.