Enjoying pride of place

By: Jet Odrerir - Posted on: December 9, 2009 | Travel

Cellcard’s Kay Lot reveals his respect for Cambodia’s disabled stars, and what the presence of the World Cup means for his country, his company and himself

Kay Lot, chief operating officer of Cellcard tells about CNVLD
Kay Lot, chief operating officer of Cellcard tells about CNVLD

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, there is a special thrill when a team pulls something from deep inside and wins, against the odds. It is doubly sweet when the athletes have overcome obstacles that some think are insurmountable. Yet here comes a powerhouse team poised to be at the top of their sport . . . and they all have a disability.

The men’s Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) team is set to host the World Cup of Disabled Volleyball at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh from December 15-20. Currently third in the world, the team has made a laughing stock of the crew of every Australian military ship to dock in Sihanoukville over the past few years by thrashing them on the courts, according to CNVLD general secretary Chris Minko. 

The CNVLD team has had the support of Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister, since 1999 and last year won the backing of Cellcard, the telecommunications company. Kay Lot, its chief operating officer, tells us why.

Why did you decide to support the CNVLD and now the World Cup?

We’ve been involved with the CNVLD for a year and are pleased to be sponsoring the sport’s World Cup. As the national [phone] carrier it’s an exciting and unique opportunity for the brand to give back to the community and we’re very pleased to support these athletes in achieving their highest possible potential, regardless of their physical condition.

How important do you think it is for Cambodia to host international sporting events such as this?

Cambodia has had a turbulent past and it has left a mark on people here and around the world. Hosting an international event is an opportunity to show to the world that despite it all, its people are strong in spirit. These athletes are the nation’s heroes, ranked number three in the world, and the CNVLD is a very capable organisation. Putting together such a prestigious event is a daunting task and we are proud that we have won the confidence of the world governing body.

How does Cellcard feel about corporate social responsibility and the role this can play in Cambodia’s development?

Every year we set aside a significant portion of our budget towards CSR programmes. This year we have awarded scholarships to students from all 24 provinces to go to university. We have ongoing programmes to help train and employ people with disabilities in the company, which is extremely rewarding. In addition to that we are conscious of our responsibility to the environment. We have a “going green policy” and are working towards that as much as we can.

What is your opinion of the national team and its impact on the development of national pride?

After watching the recent grand final of the Cellcard League I was hugely impressed with their skills and ability. Someone was suggesting that we [able-bodied] could be a match for them, but I really don’t think so, they’re professional athletes. The fact that they feature prominently in our thematic television commercials speaks volumes about pride. As I mentioned, Cellcard is proud to be Cambodian and I am sure millions of our subscribers are proud too. When it comes to national pride, what more could you ask for than our team being among the best in the world?

Cambodia stands out in idolising their disabled athletes as national heroes. How does this make you feel?

These athletes represent the nation and have gained great honour for their country. All countries have disabled athletes who have overcome obstacles to achieve great things. Disabled or not, what they’ve achieved is great and they deserve to be considered national heroes.

Most of the athletes have been victims of unexploded ordinance. Has this affected your view of people with a disability?

I am indeed very proud but also more emotional because I went through the horrific hardships during the Khmer Rouge regime and ensuing wars. Some people cannot even bear to watch video footage of that regime or the people who were caught in the crossfire. I was there. I saw what happened first-hand. So to see these athletes achieving such a stature in society is unbelievable. They look ordinary, like any one of us, but they have skills we wish we could achieve.

Bench seat: the Cambodian team in action during Cambodia’s first Volleyball World Cup competition in December 2007
Bench seat: the Cambodian team in action during Cambodia’s first Volleyball World Cup competition in December 2007

The CNVLD wants to establish Cambodia as an Asean centre for disability sports, will Cellcard assist it in fulfilling this ambition?

A lot of credit must go to CNVLD for making this happen and we are delighted to have the opportunity to support such a professional organisation. We are hugely impressed with its leadership and the way in which the organisation has conducted itself at all times. It is not a surprise that it received the United Nations award for best practices for sports and development. We would also like to thank Samdech Decho Hun Sen for his patronage this past 10 years as well as the ministry of social affairs, veteran and youth rehabilitation.

The CNVLD and the World Cup have a fresh branding and look. How has this come about and what are the aims of this marketing campaign?

Having the World Cup in Cambodia came about after we began sponsoring the team. It puts Cellcard in a unique position. The main intention is to show how amazing the human spirit is and through the display of talent by people that have had such hardships there can be a boost of resolution in the rest of the population. If you try hard enough and stay focused you can make things happen.