Passion For football Starts Young
Bodhi, one of Little Hearts teenagers, started playing football at four. Arriving at Little Hearts when he was eight, he started practicing more regularly and his skills improved. One day his cousin took him to watch a local team, Asia Europe United and he was invited for their under 15 (U15) team trials.
Bodhi remembers this challenge well. It was the first time he’d been involved in a U15 trial. He was only 12 years old and was unsurprisingly worried. He had to play against the U18 team. These players were, bigger and faster. Even so, he got through, was selected and played for the team for seven months. Later on, he found some of their players to be very judgmental so he left. Even so, the experience made him even more determined to improve, and he continued training twice a day.
Right Coach at the Right Time
Luckily, during this period, Little Hearts had football classes on Saturday afternoons. One Saturday, his coach told Bodhi that Bueng Ket football club, one of the two official national teams in Cambodia was about to start trials for their own U15 team. Together, they registered Bodhi online, and with the backing of everyone at Little Hearts, the scene was set for an epic journey.
Later that week, the trials started and Bodhi spent the next few days going through the football roller coaster of his life. With a tough selection process, 500 participants had to play a series of matches and pass rigorous tests for any hope of getting through.
Tasks were intensive and included sprinting, jumping, stamina and skills on the pitch. Just as he’d experienced before, the 14 year olds had to play the U18 team. Matches were 20 minutes each, with weaker players deselected. The remaining players were then mixed up for new matches.
From 500 to 40 – Getting Close
500 to 250 to 100. Things were moving fast. By day five only 40 players were left but Bodhi was still in. On the final weekend, Bodhi bravely set off, with his dad Tony and his football coach by his side giving him the extra boost of support he needed for the last stage of the trials. Even so, Bodhi still felt immense pressure. ‘I felt very nervous. I felt worried like I’ve never felt before’.
The final match came and the competition was fierce. These were the best players out of the original 500, and they all wanted to prove themselves. However, Bodhi took his coach’s advice to heart and played with all his strength.
Jumping For Joy
The whistle blew, the match ended and one by one, the 14-year-olds were given their results. A club selector walked up to Bodhi and smiled. ‘Well done,’ he said, you’ve passed’. Bodhi was overjoyed. ‘I was so happy I was jumping. I can’t describe the feeling’ he says.
When he got back to Little Hearts, the news spread like wildfire. Bodhi had done it; he was in. Surrounded by smiling faces he was, and still is, the football hero of Little Hearts. It was a great day for everyone, but for Bodhi it was only just the start.
A Path to Footballing Dreams
To date, Bodhi’s been training with Beung Ket’s U15 team as a striker for over two weeks, and genuinely loves every moment. In the short term, Bodhi wants to become a better player and see his team win the league. At the same time and with Tony’s careful guidance, he’s promised to be a role model for the younger kids at Little Hearts, by balancing football training with his studies.
His future goals are also well defined. ‘My dream’, he says, is to play in Spain, maybe even for my favourite team, Real Madrid. He’s under no illusions though, that he needs to train hard for this to come true while keeping up with schoolwork.
Whatever happens, Bodhi knows that all his brothers and sisters at Little Hearts will support him every step of the way.