“It’s such an amazing chance to wear the flag of your country on you”
Thierry Chantha Bin was born in Ville Pinte France in 1991. Thierry’s parents left Cambodia during the war, but it was something they never really discussed at home. Growing up in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, Thierry was bullied because he was different and struggled in school. He credits his family, especially his mother for helping him through his difficult youth and teaching him important life lessons.
Thierry discovered football at the age of 6 and focused his passion by finding inspiration through top athletes like David Beckham. He focused, worked hard and was eventually recruited to play as the Defensive Mid-Fielder for the Cambodian National Team (Phnom Penh Crown) in 2013. His proudest moment is “getting to play for the national team and singing the national song with fans.”
Here is Thierry’s journey from the suburbs of Paris back to his homeland in Cambodia...
Q. When did your parents leave Cambodia and did they talk about the past very much when you were growing up?
They left during the war but I don’t have that much information because they didn’t really talk about it.
Q: Why do you think they didn’t talk about it? How do you think the war affected your family?
I think they didn’t talk about it because they didn’t want us to wonder and think about it. They wanted us to just focus on our life. I think the war affected my family a lot because it was such a horrible thing to live with. But in France they did very well to move forward even though we never spoke about it.
Q: What was it like growing up in Paris?
I can say that I’m very happy and lucky to grew up there. I learned a lot and had the chance to start my career in France. Yes, I did have some difficulties, mostly when I was young. People would make fun of me and treat me like I was weak because I was different and was Asian. It was difficult for my parents because they had to learn French and find jobs to make a new life for our family.
Q: What were some memories of your childhood growing up in France?
I played a lot of games and I wasn’t very good at school. I gave my parents a hard time. The school always called them because I was a bad student or always making problems. That’s why I consider myself lucky to live in France and to go to school for free and to have proper food and housing. It was kind of a comfort compared to people in Cambodia.
Q: Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
I want to say my small family of my mom and sister. But if it's one person I would say my mom because she educated me very well. I’m thankful to her every single day because she made my life better even though I made a lot of mistakes. She told me to make myself a better person. That is the reason why I’m working hard everyday.
Q: How did you maintain your Khmer roots growing up in Western society?
My parents spoke Khmer all the time at home and taught us about being Khmer through food and religion. There was also lot of Khmer people where I was living and we would always meet at the park to play. There was also a temple at Vincenne that we go to pray and see others in the community.
Q: When and how did you get interested in football? What athlete inspired you?
When I was 6 years old I started to play football in the streets. But I really got interested when I saw a game of Manchester United and my friends in college who pushed me to play with them in the same club of our city. David Beckham inspired me a lot because of his style and the way he played (free kick).
Q. How did you work hard to build your career in football?
By making a lot mistakes in my career that’s how I learned. I thought I could play professional football in France, but I lost focus on my goal by thinking only about going out with friends and girls. Then I realized that I have to work hard at my goals and focus more. All these reasons made me realize that there is only one goal. It is to be professional, so always work hard, more training for myself and to eat properly.
Q: When was your first trip back to Cambodia and what were your impressions?
My first trip to Cambodia was in 2007. I really didn’t like it when I went with my family. I thought it was dirty, dangerous and I was kind of shocked and scared to see all this things.
Q: Why did you decide to come back and live here?
I decided to come back to Cambodia because I wanted new challenges in my life. I went back with the Khmer-French team made by Mr. Pent Path. He gave us the opportunity to show our talent there. I really liked it because I was with my friends so could go out and see the life in Cambodia. I also wanted to leave France to live on my own and be a professional football player.
Q: When did you join the national team?
I joined the national team the first year in 2013 when they recruited me in Cambodia. When I started to play with Club Phnom Penh Crown they gave me the opportunity to show my talent in Cambodia. I play Defensive Midfielder. I feel very proud every single time I train and play for the country. It’s such an amazing chance to wear the flag of your country on you!
Q: What is your opinion of the professional athletic environment in Cambodia, especially football. Where do you hope it will be?
In my opinion it’s very positive because it’s getting a lot better. The Club has started to spend money on it by making the stadium, building the academy, and a lot fans are behind the team. Since I first got here there are many fans behind us. It’s unbelievable when I play with the national team the stadium is always full like 60,000 people come. Facebook is helping a lot I think because they just discover that so there are many enthusiastic followers on there. There are also many improvements like new field, many new players, and many sponsors are starting to have an interest in football. I think Cambodia is in a very good shape. I would say in 10 years we can be like Thailand.
Q: Since being in Cambodia, what has been your proudest, most memorable moment?
Getting to play for the national team and singing the national song with all the fans. It still gives me goose bumps.
Q: Why should the Khmer diaspora come back to Cambodia?
I think the Khmer diaspora should come back to Cambodia to help the country and try to give a part of our experience of what we have learned from another country. It is also an opportunity to learn from our Khmer culture.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to young Khmer people in your generation either living in Cambodia or abroad?
I would say to them: work hard and believe in yourself no matter what. There is no secret, believe in your dream because when I was young I never thought I would get to play in Cambodia and now I’m very happy and I don’t want to leave my country.
Follow Thierry on his Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/thierrychanthabin/?ref=hl
To learn more about Phnom Penh Crown Football Club visit: http://ppcfc.comhttp://ppcfc.com