Theng Langeng, 17, played for Team Cambodia in the 2014 Homeless World Cup in Santiago, Chile and won the hearts of all of the spectators watching the England versus Cambodia game. After going down 4-0, Cambodian playmaker—and smallest player in the tournament—Langeng managed to get by his English defender and fire the first Cambodian goal past the keeper.
Cambodia trailed the entire game, but showed sportsmanship and passion throughout. Langeng in particular impressed the crowd and his opponents with his incredible enthusiasm, energy, and contagious smile. English team captain Scott Fitzgerald even picked up his opponent at the end of the game, and the two competitors cheerfully paraded around the pitch, taking in the supportive cheers of the spectators. It was one of the most memorable moments from Chile 2014, and it captivated the good nature, spirit, and ethos of the event.
Langeng is the eldest of three children. His father is motorcycle taxi driver and his mother a street vendor. Like so many families in Cambodia, his family was too poor to afford to send Langeng to school. He was devastated and would likely have followed in his mother’s footsteps—sifting through garbage to find items to sell on the street—if not for the intervention of Cambodian Children’s Fund. The CCF is an organization that provides education and health and welfare services, and they invited Langeng to study with them. In addition to helping with his schooling, program organizers encouraged 13-year-old Langeng to join Happy Football Cambodia Australia, the Homeless World Cup’s National Partner in Cambodia.
Langeng found he had a passion for the sport and last year was old enough to represent his country at the Homeless World Cup tournament. Langeng explained, “I fully embraced the experience by speaking to as many people as I could, and I tried to share as much of my Khmer culture with everyone.”
“I was so excited to be in Chile and so happy—so happy—to get the opportunity to play football there. I made so many new friends in a very short time who were incredibly kind to me. I will always remember it. The experience of playing a lot of football, the support from the crowds and the friends I now have all over the world.”
After returning from the Homeless World Cup, Langeng was promoted to the position of coach for the Under 14’s team, and he shared his experience with HFCA in hopes of inspiring the young footballers to pursue their dreams.
Looking relaxed, fresh, and confident, Langeng stated, “I will return to the Homeless World Cup, but this time as a coach with the next generation of players who will go there to change how they see themselves and who will change their lives for the better too.”