Not the football star but a Cambodian student whose real first name is Messi. I took a picture of his student ID (second row it says his name) when I met him on the bus and he invited me for dinner at his place.
It felt like a different Phnom Penh from the one Ive seen so far. A bit darker. Smelled different too. We made a right turn onto a narrow ramp which was about a meter wide and four meters long leading to the basement of a building. I thought its the garage but it turned out to be the entrance to a small parking lot and rooms which were for rent. Its the four of them living on about 15m2 for $60 a month. the room is only devided in two parts. The bathroom where they wash their dishes as well and the other room is the kitchen, the living and bedroom in one. Basically a tiled floor with a tv, some kitchen appliances in one corner, a place to hang their clothes and their bed stuff folded together and piled up. Although i have heard from factory workers sharing a room I was bit shocked at first but I was warmly welcomed. And then I just had to smile when I gave Messi (second from left in group picture) football shoes as a gift and he smiled at me. We played football together once and he played barefoot because he couldnt afford shoes.
We sat down and talked about what the boys wanted to do after graduation. Messi wanted to become a police officer in his home province Kep after graduating from law school. Two of his friends want to
be civil engineers in their hometown and the fourth guy is a cook. Shortly after they served a colorful assembly of dishes with chicken, pork and deep fried fish. After enjoying the delicous food we decided to go for a beer. One of the boys received a call on his cell and he proudly showed it to me as it displayed "My darling". I asked him if that was his girlfriend but he replied: "No, my wife". I was highly surprised because he was only 22. He told me he had gotten married two weeks ago. After the first beer he said he actually didnt want to get married but his mother liked her so much, he had to.
The rest of the night was without great surprises but ended with hugs and plans to meet soon again. Thank you Messi to show me a different Phnom Penh.
Ps. Ive just been told another guy moved in. Now its the five of them in the room. "We are happy to welcome another friend" they said.