Creating brighter futures through football

For teenager Kep Rattana*, playing football in the AIA-ISF Youth League was more than a means to escape the hard realities of his everyday life for a few hours a week. But, instead, an opportunity to build a brighter future.

Rattana has had a difficult childhood. His mother passed away when he was just four years old and he was sent to live with neighbours as his father was unable to provide for both him and his older sister. He worked and lived in different homes in exchange for food and a roof over his head. In total, he lived in ten different homes, with families that were not his own. When this became too much to bear, he spent four years in a pagoda (Buddhist temple) until his grandmother took him in. He then worked on the street with his grandmother selling pork and chicken.

In 2009, Rattana joined ISF’s catch-up Education Programme and began his studies at grade 3. He successfully completed the programme and went on to study in state school up until grade 10. Rattana has been balancing his studies with earning a living for his family since he was 14 years old. The pressure to do both however was becoming more and more overwhelming and affecting his mental health, so recently, at the age of 17, Rattana decided to leave school and focus on football as a means to earn a living full-time.

Rattana first started playing football at the same time he joined ISF and quickly became involved in ISF’s Football Programme. He plays in goal for his team and says playing football has brought him a lot happiness. Not only does he enjoy practicing skills such as jumping, blocking shots and improving his fitness but he loves