How it Started
In 2006, our family lived in Cambodia for roughly 2½ months with our friend Sam Schweingruber. Although soccer was on our daughters’ hearts and minds, at the time it was not available to girls in Cambodia. During the time we lived in Cambodia, our girls would repeatedly invite Khmer girls to play soccer with them and they would repeatedly say no.
In 2007, while back in the the United States we received a call from Sam. He informed us that he had started a soccer league for children, called the SALT Academy (www.saltacademy.net) and there were girls asking to play. Of course, the interest of girls and soccer caught our attention, so we immediately made plans to return to Cambodia to see how we could help. Upon our arrival to Battambang during Thanksgiving break, we found two girl’s teams made up of orphans and local church kids; they played each other week after week.
During the visit, our girls were invited to play alongside the Khmer girls during one of their weekly games. When the game began the field was lined with people on all four sides. Many came to heckle the Khmer girls, some came to see the Americans they heard were playing and others were just curious to see the girls play soccer. It was early in the game that our oldest daughter had to take a corner kick. We have since named it “The kick heard around the world” (see gallery), because when the ball was kicked high and in front of the goal, the spectators cheered loudly and began to respect the soccer play of the girls. In addition, the Khmer girls became empowered, believing they could work hard and kick a ball like the boys, because they had witnessed a girl doing it.
The remainder of the game was met with cheering and encouragement towards the players. It was then that we knew we needed to bring a youth girls team from the United States to visit, so the girls could see how good they could become with hard work. Following that game many more girls came forward requesting to play soccer and the league has grown ever since.
Two years later, we returned with the first group of U.S. youth girl soccer players. They spent two weeks hosting clinics, training and educating the Khmer girls. Friendships were developed, lives were changed, in both Cambodia and the United States, the rest is history. Today Cambodia has a girl’s national team with many of the players our U.S. girl teams have trained over the years.