Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PVF will meet Harimau Muda

The Asia U-16 Champions Trophy finalists have been decided after the two-legged semi-finals. Rather surprisingly last years champions, Chonburi Academy from Thailand are out, beaten 6-1 over two legs by Harimau Muda U-16s, the national youth team of Malaysia, who did the unexpected and won 3-0 in the second leg in Thailand. In the other semi-final, Frenz Malaysia found PVF from Vietnam in great form, winning their home leg 3-0 in Ho Chi Minh and then grabbing a late goal to win 1-0 in Malaysia. The two legs of the Final will be played on 25 and 31 August with PVF getting home advantage in the first leg. The Phnom Penh Crown Academy finished a creditable 3rd in the Group B standings, well behind both Chonburi and Frenz Malaysia, in a six-team group.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bubble burst

Cambodia went down 3-0 to Vietnam. Pic courtesy Lim Vandy
The bubble burst in the final group game of Cambodia U-21s Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei this evening. Three victories and a single defeat had given Cambodia a chance to progress to the semis if they could beat Vietnam's highly-rated U-19 team. They couldn't. They went down 3-0. And their dreams were shattered. More precisely, the hopes of their fans were left in tatters, after the expectation had risen to serious levels on social media. It didn't look promising when the coach Lee Tae-Hoon's team selection was announced with captain Kouch Sokumpheak and Sos Suhana on the bench (tiredness was the reason for their exclusion), though Ngoy Srin and Thourng Da both returned after suspension. And promising it wasn't as Vietnam looked only marginally better in the opening half but took their chances to lead 2-0 with goals on the half-hour and with the final kick of the first-half. Both goals were scored by Ho Tuan Tai. They dominated the second period with Um Vichet forced to rescue his side on a few occasions, before Vietnam wrapped it up with ten minutes to go with Phan Van Long netting. 3-0 the final score. Vietnam would always be the toughest of the opposition, and so it proved. Cambodia now come home, with three wins and two defeats under their belts, financially better off after gifts from the FFC, BIDC and the Sultan, but with a sour taste in the mouth of many of their fans after promising so much, only to fail at the final hurdle. Cambodia v Vietnam: Vichet, Da, Samoeun, Sovan, Daravorn, Srin, Soksana, Pisor, Chhoeun, Udom, Borey.  Subs: Phearun, Sokumpheak, Suhana, Phallin, Vathanaka, Ravy, Tola.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Academy net 11

Academy v Rachana, back row, LtoR: Chanvuthy, Titchhy, Sovann, Sodavid, Chanpolin, Rozak. Front: Baraing, Senteang, Ponvuthy, Nuron, Phearath - click to enlarge
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy were back in action Sunday afternoon at RSN. Their visitors were the Rachana team from Prek Kdam, who were older and unbeaten according to their manager. That was about to change as the Academy ran out 11-0 victors. Crown are getting ready for the upcoming Youth League which begins next month with U-15 and U-17 competitions. It took just seven minutes for Sath Rozak to open the scoring, lobbing the keeper from Orn Chanpolin's pass. Ouk Sovann was finding lots of room at right-back and he slotted in the next, on 20 minutes from Mat Nuron's pass. The home team were creating chances at will and on the half hour, Chhuot Senteang tapped in from Pov Ponvuthy's center. A Senteang breakaway, a Chanpolin pass and In Sodavid drilled the ball in off the upright two minutes later. Within a minute Sovann grabbed his second, with a neat finish from Chanpolin's through ball. With their next attack, the Academy made is six at the break as Ponvuthy set up Senteang and his chip was inch perfect. Four minutes after the restart, Seut Baraing's venture down the left flank set up Senteang for his hat-trick, with a simple tap in. Yeu Muslim set up Nuron for a clinical finish from an angle, ten minutes in. Ten minutes later, Chanpolin netted with a clean strike from Long Phearath's pass. Coach Bouy Dary made changes before Mao Piseth gave Sraing Titchhy the space to fire home from 20 yards. Chanpolin rounded off the 11-0 victory with a shot from outside the box that crept through the keeper's legs. 
Academy v Rachana: Chanvuthy, Sovann, Phearath (Sakrovy 79), Titchhy, Baraing (Chanchav 49), Chanpolin, Sodavid, Rozak (Sakrovy 29 (Muslim 49)), Ponvuthy (V Samnang 70), Nuron (Piseth 72), Senteang. MOTM: Chanpolin. Goals: Rozak (7), Sovann 2 (20, 34), Senteang 3 (31, 35, 49), Sodavid (33), Nuron (54), Chanpolin 2 (65, 83), Titchhy (82).
The two teams together before kick-off

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sokumpheak's goal is decisive

Cambodia v Indonesia, back row, LtoR: Samoeun, Udom, Vathanaka, Tola, Vichet, Sovan. Front: Phallin, Daravorn, Suhana, Pidor, Sokumpheak [pic Lim Vandy]
The Cambodian U-21s kept their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive with their third win in four Group B matches in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei this afternoon. Up against the Indonesia U-19s, they weathered an early scare to lead by half-time and to hold onto their advantage, winning 2-1 at the final whistle. A victory in their final match against Vietnam on Monday evening would see them move into the semi-final stages of the competition. With Ngoy Srin and Thourng Da out through suspension, Sos Suhana was called into partner captain Kouch Sokumpheak in the middle of midfield. Goalkeeper Um Vichet made an early stop as Indonesia began brightly but it was Prak Mony Udom who went closest, smashing a shot against the foot of the upright on 15 minutes. Sokumpheak got the faintest of touches with his head to force a corner and moments later, Hoy Phallin's cross flicked off the head of Sok Sovan and crept into the corner on 22 minutes. Udom saw his free-kick tipped over the top but Indonesia were back in the game four minutes before the break. Cambodia failed to clear their lines and Vichet was beaten by a lob and as it rebounded off the cross-bar, Dimas had the easy task of nodding it into an empty net. Not to be denied, a minute before the break captain Sokumpheak was in the box to meet Udom's cross and got a lucky break as a defender's attempted cut-out caught him on the thigh and bounced over the goal-line. Cambodia were 2-1 ahead at the break. Indonesia missed a glorious chance early after the restart but that was it as far as chances were concerned, with play bogged down in midfield and Indonesia simply not good enough to break down the Cambodian defensive unit. An injury to Vichet when he hit his head on the ground, added six minutes of stoppage time, but they were never in danger as Cambodia claimed their third victory of the tournament.
Cambodia v Indonesia: Vichet, Samouen, Pidor, Sovan, Daravorn, Sokumpheak, Suhana (Soksana 58), Phallin, Udom, Vathanaka (Ravy 69), Tola (Borey 58). Subs not used: Phearun, Chhoeun.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sam on the Mekong Cup

Sam Schweingruber - by Masayori Ishikawa
A brand new competition, the Toyota Mekong Club Championship is a reward for Phnom Penh Crown's Cambodian League Championship success. It's a 4-team tournament which will be held for the first time, in Vietnam, between 31 October and 2 November 2014. Toyota have put together the Champions of 4 countries - Vietnam (Becamex Binh Duong), Cambodia (Phnom Penh Crown), Laos (HAGL Attapeu) and Myanmar (still to be decided) - to organise this exciting competition, to find the best club team in the Mekong region. The venue has recently been switched to Ho Chi Minh City, with teams eligible to have 4 foreign players in their 18-man squad. There will be semi-final matches, then a 3rd/4th place play-off before the grand final. Its expected the matches will be screened live on TV in all four countries and the winning team will take home a cash prize of $75,000. The competition's Most Valuable Player will receive $15,000. Now that's prizemoney that is well worth winning. 
Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber is in China, but found time to offer up his thoughts about this new competition. "We are proud to be the first Cambodian team to be representing the country in the newly formed competition - the Mekong Cup. Obviously this is a huge opportunity for us to gain experience playing against champions of neighboring countries and we are looking forward to learning more about our opponents and other details, like the cup regulations. In preparation for the new season the Mekong Cup is coming a bit early. In preparation for the tournament, we will be for most of the time without at least 7 players that train with the National Team - so we will only be getting back together 10 days before departure, and will have to try to get everybody on the same page, especially new players like Koen. We hope to be playing some more international matches closer to the start of the new season and are preparing a tour, but details are not yet confirmed. Looking at the disappointing position Cambodia takes in the FIFA World Rankings (201st) we are aware that playing outside Cambodia pretty much always means we are the underdogs. But this will be the only way for us to try close the gap by playing against better teams." 
More information on the new competition can be found on its website @ http://toyotamekongfootball.com/

Meanwhile, Crown have decided not to renew the contract of speedy winger Neou Sosela after one season with the club. Sosela's appearances were limited during the team's Championship-winning campaign that has just ended and head coach Sam Schweingruber has decided that it's best for both parties if the former Army and National Police speedster seeks first-team opportunities elsewhere. Albirex looks like the former Cambodia U-23's next destination.

Bosma flies in

Koen Bosma signs on the dotted line
Phnom Penh Crown have signed Dutch attacking midfielder Koen Bosma, as one of their foreign players for next season. Koen, who will be 24 next month, enjoyed a successful trial with Crown in July, including three goals in a practice match with TriAsia, and is keen to make his mark at the club. "Joining PPCFC is a perfect move for me. Right from the start Sam gave me a good feeling about Cambodia and the club and all the guys were really nice - it just felt so comfortable. I have high expectations and the fans can expect goals and assists from me. I am a player who loves to have the ball and take on opponents. I know PPCFC are the most respected club in Cambodia and I'm proud to be a part of the Crown Family - I can't wait to get started." Koen began his football in the academy at HFC Haarlem in Holland, before signing professional and making his debut in the Jupiler League (the Dutch 2nd Division) in 2009. He moved onto AZ Alkmaar briefly when Haarlem went bankrupt, before joining VVSB in the Topklasse League, the Dutch third tier, four years ago. Last season, Koen scored 17 goals and provided 16 assists in 27 matches for VVSB, completed his masters degree in International Sports Management and is really looking forward to making Cambodia his new home. Head coach Sam Schweingruber is pleased with his new addition. "I am very happy that this deal with Koen has come through. I considered him for the second part of the season in May but it didn’t work out back then. Later he came for try-out and showed determination to be part of our project. He is technically very good and because he uses both feet equally, for a defender he's hard to predict. He has great instincts and scores lots of goals. I also like his confidence and ambition - somebody that it is a joy to work with. He is smart, disciplined and professional - what we need to move forward in our attempt to be the best club in Cambodia and to retain our title."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Downed in the rain

A very wet Cambodian starting line-up v Malaysia
Torrential rain caused an interruption of tonight's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tie between Cambodia and Malaysia's U-21 teams, though the sides managed to complete the game on a sodden pitch, with Malaysia doing just enough to win 1-0. The temporary halt came after 18 minutes with the teams resuming and being unable to break the deadlock at the mid-way interval. The only goal of the game came on 66 minutes when substitute Asri Mardzuki made the difference to give Malaysia the winning strike. It took his team to the top of the group table with 7 points from three games, whilst Cambodia dropped to fourth, just a point behind. It was Cambodia's first loss after two successive victories over Brunei and Singapore. They now meet Indonesia on Saturday and then Vietnam in their final group game on Monday. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon changed his line-up from the 3-1 win over Singapore, bringing back keeper Um Vichet, Hoy Phallin in the middle and Phoung Soksana up front.
Cambodia v Malaysia: Vichet, Da, Samoeun, Sovan, Daravorn, Srin, Sokumpheak, Phallin, Udom, Vathanaka, Soksana. Subs: Phearun, Pidor, Borey, Suhana, Ravy, Tola, Chhoeun.
Cambodia skipper Kouch Sokumpheak exchanges pennants before the game begins

Korean experience

The U-13s line-up before their game with Thailand
Twelve young boys and their female coach Bi Phally went to Incheon in South Korea recently to represent their country and Phnom Penh Crown. They are all members of the Crown community teams except Academy student and captain, Mit Samel. The Ministry of Education, Youth & Sport and the Football Federation asked Crown to supply the team for the second year running. Sixteen countries took part in the Asian Youth Festival, with 62 teams at three age-levels. The boys from Cambodia were in the U-13 category and played four matches. Their first day was a mixed bag, losing their opening game 2-0 to Thailand but winning their second tie, 4-0 against Korean team, FC Jwasuyoung. The following day they played their final two matches and recorded a 1-1 draw with Eobang School  and then a 3-2 victory over JSD FC, both opponents from Korea. So that's 2 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat out of their 4 matches and lots of fun for all the boys. They represented their country and their club extremely well, so a big well done to them and their coach Phally. 
The whole U-13 squad, coach Phally and friends

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another two years

Thierry signs on the dotted line - click to enlarge
Another piece of the jigsaw was slotted into place today as midfield playmaker Bin Thierry signed on the dotted line for another two years with Phnom Penh Crown, extending his contract until 2016. Thierry is currently training with the Cambodia national team ahead of the Suzuki Cup and is very pleased to commit himself to Crown. "I'm extremely happy to sign for two more years and to remain in Cambodia. I love the club, the players, the staff and I'm very excited to stay, especially to play in the AFC Cup next year. It was great to win the championship, even though I played only half the season, but I was there all the time, supporting my teammates - it was great for the club and the players to get this success, which we deserved. The big difference was that everyone played for each other and for the team, we were united together as one," he said whilst signing his new contract. Head coach Sam Schweingruber, currently on FIFA duty in China, had this to say. "He was my very first signing when I joined Crown soon 2 years ago. He has lots of potential and was unlucky with injury and suspension this year. We know of his qualities and importance and I am very excited that he has chosen to be with us for the next 2 years - rejecting better offers from our competitors and staying committed to our project and team. I would like to thank Thierry for his trust in me as a coach and I am committed to further help develop him to reach his goals for the club and personally. Hopefully next season will be the best we have ever seen from Thierry. He is now focusing on his national team duties, where I believe he will also be the star player in the upcoming Suzuki Cup campaign." Thierry was born in Paris, the son of Battambang-born Khmer parents, and played in France until he joined Crown in October 2012. Now 23 years old, he impressed on a tour of Cambodia by the Khmer-Europe XI.  As a youngster, he was at the RC Strasbourg academy and played for the Paris District U-14s and the France U-16 national team before spells at FC Saint-Jean-Le-Blanc and Aubervilliers. He’s a natural left-footed midfield player who quickly became a crowd favourite and who represented Cambodia in the last SEA Games in Myanmar. Injury and suspension interrupted his championship-winning season.

Two on the trot

Cambodia v Singapore, back row, LtoR: Udom, Daravorn, Vathanaka, Srin, Sovan, Sokumpheak (capt). Front: Tola, Chhoeun, Da, Phearun, Samoeun - courtesy of Sabay

Cambodia's U-21 team will be cock-a-hoop after their second successive win in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy this afternoon. They led by three clear goals at the break and eventually ran out 3-1 victors over a very young and inexperienced Singapore team. However, Cambodia won't mind that as this second victory will put them in a confident mood ahead of their three remaining fixtures. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon made three changes to his starting line-up after the 1-nil win over Brunei at the weekend. The Phnom Penh Crown trio of Sokumpheak, Srin and Da kept their places, with Sokumpheak again wearing the captain's armband. Those first-half goals came courtesy of Chan Vathanaka, Nob Tola and Prak Mony Udom, with Singapore scoring their consolation ten minutes after the restart. Vathanaka fired the first from a Prak Mony Udom pass inside the box on 22 minutes, Tola tapped in the second from a Sokumpheak lay-off on 37 minutes before Udom let fly from 25 yards into the top corner three minutes before the break. Singapore hit back with their own fierce drive on 55 minutes but there was no way back at the Berakas Sports Complex. So its onwards and upwards for the U-21s who now meet Malaysia on Wednesday. Cambodia v Singapore: Phearun, Da, Samoeun, Daravorn, Sovan, Srin, Sokumpheak, Udom, Chhoeun, Vathanaka, Tola. Subs: Vichet, Suhana, Ravy, Phallin, Borey, Pidor, Soksana.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rare away success

Cam v Brunei, back row, LtoR: Udom, Srin, Sovan, Vichet, Soksana, Daravorn. Front: Samoeun, Da, Phallin, Vathanaka, Sokumpheak (capt) - click to enlarge
Kouch Sokumpheak, Phnom Penh Crown's captain, led out the Cambodia U-21 team in the first of their five Hassanal Bolkiah U-21 Trophy matches in Brunei, against the host nation, on Saturday evening. And thanks to a 15th minute goal from Chan Vathanaka, the Cambodia team will take a rare opening victory into their next game against Singapore on Monday. Victories on the road under Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon have been few and far between, so the players will revel in this success, against the 2012 trophy winners and in front of a big home audience. Lee also included Crown's Ngoy Srin, in a deep-lying midfield role, and Thourng Da at right-back, in the starting line-up, with Sos Suhana, a non-playing substitute. In the 2012 edition of the HBT Cambodia lost all of their matches, so this first game success will be very welcome by players and fans alike. Video of the match revealed that the home team made it hard for themselves, conceding a soft goal on 15 minutes and then having to play with 10-men for the last thirty minutes. Vathanaka tried a long range effort from 30 yards out and the Brunei keeper Abdul Rahim attempted to grab the ball only managing to push it onto the crossbar and fumbling it into the net for a gift of a goal. Vichet in the Cambodia goal had no answer to Zulkhairy's effort which crashed against the crossbar at the end of an otherwise uninspiring opening half. Just after the hour, Brunei's keeper went off injured and his replacement meant Brunei had to remove one of their outfield players, as they already had the allowed three overage players on the pitch. That meant they were one man down for the last quarter of the game. Not exactly bright team tactics by their South Korean coach. Nob Tola had a header saved which rebounded to Kouch Sokumpheak close-in but his header went agonizingly wide, while Moul Daravorn sent his header from six yards wide of the target. Vathanaka sent a looping header against the cross-bar late on, while Brunei too struck the woodwork before the referee called an end to proceedings after eight minutes of stoppage time. The Laos referee somehow managed to book both Srin and Da for innocuous challenges. A confidence-boosting win for Cambodia though they will need to up their performance level in their remaining matches if they are to make this success count. Cambodia v Brunei: Vichet, Da, Samoeun, Daravorn, Sovan, Srin (Pidor 85), Phallin, Sokumpheak, Udom (Tola 66), Vathanaka, Soksana (Chhoeun 69). Subs not used: Phearun, Borey, Suhana, Ravy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Messi signs on

Ouk Sothy and his extended contract
Winning the Championship is a great way to encourage your best players to stay and seek to retain the title, which is what is happening at Phnom Penh Crown with many of the squad pledging themselves to the club for the next year or two. One of those who did that yesterday was Ouk Sothy. Known to all as Messi, he signed a two-year contract extension, that will take the midfielder through to the end of the 2016 season. Currently training with the Cambodia national team squad ahead of the Suzuki Cup involvement, he was a prominent part of our midfield engine-room during our Championship success. Coach Sam Schweingruber commented on Sothy's contract extension: "He has been a key player in this year's success and has shown great progress, and for many games in a row was my personal 'man of the match,' which earned him the title 'most improved player of season 2014'. This has also been noticed by the national team coach and other clubs, who tempted Messi with big offers. I am proud for him to choose what is best for his future, as I hope he will be with us beyond his years as a player and stay involved as a coach and mentor to the next generation. His work ethic, skills and discipline together with improved physical strength and understanding, will make him a key player for the next few years. I hope he will soon start scoring again - something we only see in training and not in the games. I wish him success in the team and continued further improvement." Sothy joined Crown in November 2011 after playing local football with Flying Bikes and as a member of the Cambodia national futsal team.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sam on the spot

Sam Schweingruber answering questions
Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber answered a series of questions from local news website Sabay and this is what he had to say:

Q. What was good and bad about your season?
A. If you only draw 3 games and lose 2 out of 22 games (so make 54 from a max of 66 - dropping 12 points) and you are 7 points clear of second place, you have obviously done a lot of things really well. Our team has a good understanding of how we want to play, good ideas, very good fitness and also excellent team work and unity. We focused quite a bit on set pieces and have achieved reasonable success. The coaching staff managed to give the players a goal that everybody worked really well to achieve. For weak points - I would call it areas that we want to improve. Not weak but more like not yet good enough. We are getting better at understanding how to play in difficult situations, need to be more relaxed under pressure, so that is a mental problem and comes with experience and we hope to develop this. We also need to be more composed in front of goal. I am not happy with the amount of chances we missed. Also, this year we conceded a total of 20 goals - that is too much and a few of the goals were really silly mistakes - we will work hard to cut these mistakes and be better organized.
Q. What was the difference between the 1st and 2nd Rounds for your team?
A. A good team in not built overnight, it takes time to develop understanding of the plans and also understanding of the players with each other. Sure, the addition of Adriano Pellegrino helped our team to be more mature and controlled in stressful situations. But all in all I would say that our team needed more time to develop and get more comfortable with the ways we want to play. We only lost 1 game in the first half of season - and that had to do with an early red card in the game - something that can happen to any team.

Q. What's your future with Crown?
A. As I am currently working for FIFA in China for a whole month, the contract negotiations have not been progressing. I have a verbal agreement from the Club to continue to work with me. Even though I have some other interesting offers, I am hoping to stay at the Club for a few more years to further develop this project to make the Club more professional and also gain international recognition.

Q. What are the plans for next season?
A. The plans are to further improve the way we play and start integrating Academy players into the first team for longer term success. We will do everything possible to achieve success in the domestic competitions and strengthen our squad if possible to also be challenging internationally. Yes, we will try hard to retain the CPL title, but we are also aware that there are many other teams investing and looking to develop a strong team to challenge us. This is good for Cambodian Football as competition will improve the quality and standard. 

Q. What was good and bad about the season?
A. The playing facilities (both pitches) are terrible and the standard of refereeing will also need to be further improved for football to properly develop in Cambodia. The new teams that were added have impressed me, I am glad these teams (Albirex and TriAsia) are here and try to develop football the right way. 

Q. What about activities for the Fans?
A. I am very happy to see more and more focus on generating interest for the fans. The fans are the blood of each club and we need more of them to get our clubs more professional and better. I hope the Cambodian people start to understand more of the meaning of loyalty to a club - so many people I see wear Boeung Ket and Crown jerseys within the same season - some people even change during the day - unbelievable. At Crown we are committed to prioritize the establishment of a proper fan club and we hope to have at the start of home games, a good crowd to support us.

Q. Will the new surface at Olympic Stadium improve our football?
A. Oh for sure, the current field is absolute disgraceful, never cut, not maintained, sometimes rocks on it and so on. To get an artificial pitch is not ideal but at least we then have a flat surface to play on. You can see how much better the Academy play when they go overseas and the same was true for our first team when we played in Vietnam, much better football for teams that look at applying a possession-based style of football. FIFA studies show how the level of football improves if you invest in new pitches - this is one of the reasons Crown has a very good training ground and is soon going to have home games on a great pitch. I'm glad the FFC has received the FIFA funding to renovate the Olympic Stadium.
Q. How should the FFC improve?
A. The lack of communication is strange. We don’t even know what player is on how many yellow cards. There are no official websites or information online, so it is hard for fans or officials to get news. There are many decisions made by the Federation that should be in agreement with the clubs. Suspensions of players are handled without consulting players and there is no proper way to appeal and so on. In general, the Federation is challenged with a lot of work and limited manpower, so there are many shortfalls. Double standards are something that I can not believe the fans accept, complete injustice or clear wrong decisions I have a hard time to believe the fans and football community are not protesting louder. But I think it is all part of the slow process of developing football in Cambodia. The list of questions I have, concerns I could raise, and wrong doing that I could point to is very long and to address over the media is the wrong way - so I leave it at this. Cambodia needs a reserve league and I am currently designing a proposal to get funding to organize it with Crown and endorsed by the Federation. Hopefully this will be possible soon.
Sam Schweingruber meets Liu Jiangnan at Guangzhou Evergrande Football School

Sam Schweingruber is currently on a FIFA assignment in China, coaching children and their coaches, at the largest football academy in the world, the Guangzhou Evergrande Football School. Here he hands over a Crown jersey to the school president Liu Jiangnan, a former deputy chairman of the Chinese FA. The statistics for the school are dramatic. It cost $115million to build, the 300-acre project is breathtaking in scale: as well as more than 50 football pitches, it boasts an Olympic-size outdoor pool, a supermarket, a cinema, an open-air stadium and four tower blocks which house around 500 full-time staff. There are 2,400 full-time football-playing students, including 200 girls and 126 youth teams at the school, located 50 miles from Guangzhou. The scale is mind-boggling and all designed to make China a football superpower in the future. 

Adriano signs for 1 more year

Adriano Pellegrino with Crown VP Tommy Lim
NEWSFLASH - Adriano Pellegrino, who made such a dramatic impact on the 2nd half of their Championship-winning season, has signed a contract extension to keep him with Phnom Penh Crown for another year. His 3 goals and 12 assists were a major factor in supporting the team to their 5th Cambodian League title success. Head coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say from China, where he's on FIFA assignment. "We are very happy Adriano has accepted the contract extension for the next year and will be with us to help defend our title. Everybody has seen the impact he had during his 3 month spell with us and we are happy that he is going to be on our side for the next campaign, supporting our team with his qualities, experience and leadership." Adriano is pictured with club vice president Tommy Lim and his new contract. The Australian playmaker, aged 30, played A-League football in his home country with Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariner's, as well as spells in Greece and Malaysia and gained 4 caps for Australia's U-20 national team. Here's what the midfielder had to say on his decision to stay:
"I'm very happy and honoured to have signed a new contract with Crown. It's been an amazing past 3 months having joined the club and being crowned champions, now to have signed a new contract, and be a part of the club long-term, I am very much looking forward to it. The club is going in a great direction with Crown competing next season in Asian competitions, new stadium being built, new signings at the club and a great youth program, and I want to be a part of all that in the future to come. I have to make a special mention to head coach Sam who has been sensational since I arrived at Crown. He is a great coach and look forward to working with him in the future to come, in competing and doing well in Asian competitions and also defending our CPL title next season." Adriano is celebrating his 1-year extension with a visit to Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples, one of the places he was looking forward to visiting when he knew he was coming to Cambodia. He also added that he hoped by his remaining in Cambodia, that it might open the door for other Australian players to play in the C-League. "It's an up and coming league and a great stage for more Australian players to play," commented the former A-League star.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looking back

In the wake of the recent draw for the AFC President’s Cup 2014 that will take place in Sri Lanka this September - the last ever edition - here's the highlights of a competition highly regarded throughout Asia for offering a platform for clubs from emerging nations. The AFC President’s Cup was first competed for in 2005, a move designed to afford an opportunity for the league champions of AFC’s emerging nations to feature in a competitive continental competition. The relevant clubs embraced the concept, and, with Asia watching on, duly started participating on a continental stage. Despite the AFC’s decision to bring the curtain down on the nine-year existence of the AFC President’s Cup, clubs from emerging nations will bid farewell to the competition safe in the knowledge that there are more opportunities in the offing. From 2015 onwards, the AFC has decided that the league champions from emerging nations can play in the AFC Cup qualification stage, and, therefore, showcase their talent at an even higher level.

The AFC President’s Cup journey began in 2005 when Regar TadAZ from Tajikistan defeated Kyrgyzstan's Dordoi Dynamo (now FC Dynamo) 3-0 to lift the inaugural title in Kathmandu.
Dordoi won the next two competitions in Malaysia and Pakistan, while Regar again reigned supreme in 2008 and 2009. The following year, Yadanarbon of Myanmar became the first winners of the competition from outside Central Asia when they defeated Dordoi 1-0 in Myanmar. Chinese Taipei became the first East Asian representative to win the competition in 2011 when Taiwan Power Company lifted the trophy in front of home support (beating Phnom Penh Crown 3-2), while subsequent wins for Tajikistan’s Istiqlol and Turkmenistan's Balkan in 2012 and 2013 ensured that there is still to be a winner from West or South Asia. Palestine’s Al Am’ari and KRL Football Club of Pakistan, did however make it into the finals in the 2012 and 2013 editions respectively. There are three representatives from South Asia in the upcoming and last edition of the competition, while DPR Korea's Rimyongsu are making their debut. Erchim of Mongolia and FC HTTU are making their appearances in the finals for the first time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heading out

The PPCFC U-12s before heading to South Korea today
Two teams flew out from Phnom Penh today to represent their country. The Cambodian U-21 squad headed for Brunei to join the invitational Hassanal Bolkiah U-21 Trophy and will play their first game against the hosts on 9 August. Four Phnom Penh Crown players are in the party; Kouch Sokumpheak and Sos Suhana of two of the five overaged players allowed, as well as Ngoy Srin and Thourng Da. Cambodia's games are: 9 Aug vs Brunei; 11 Aug vs Singapore; 15 Aug vs Malaysia; 16 Aug vs Indonesia; 18 Aug vs Vietnam.

Later on this evening an U-12 team, made up of Phnom Penh Crown community boys and one Academy youngster, Mit Samel, are off to South Korea for a youth festival. Twelve youngsters will be playing thirty minute, 9-a-side games. It's taking place in Incheon, Korea's third largest city and is the second year running that we've sent a team to represent Cambodia. Obviously for boys of this age its a great experience especially as they are camping in tents with over 1,000 other boys. The team is being supervised by former Mighty Girl, Bi Phally. Squad: Hvarit, Sochea, Phanny, Rathana, Chanbut, Vanna, Brathna, Channy, Mesa, Darapich, Samel, Hangdavit.

Today also saw the draw for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2014, with the Cambodia senior national team included in the Qualifying Round to be held in Laos before the competition finals. They will play the following qualifying matches with the best two teams progressing to the November finals in Vietnam and Singapore: 12 Oct vs Laos; 16 Oct vs Timor-Leste; 18 Oct vs Myanmar; 20 Oct vs Brunei. The final squad will be selected in September.

Monday, August 4, 2014

National team practice

The Cambodia senior national team lined up against a Japanese Select XI for a practice match at Tonle Bati this afternoon, as Cambodia continued their preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October. After two periods of 30 minutes, a goal by Suong Virak separated the teams. In a third 30-minute period, a TriAsia team took over from the Japanese and the score for that period was 1-1 with Sok Chanrasmey scoring for the national team. Phnom Penh Crown's Thierry, Sothy, Boris and Sokumpheak all took part at some stage but Yaty and Pheng sat out with injuries and most of the U-21 team that arrived back from Laos yesterday, did not feature. The national team have a few days rest before regrouping again on Friday.

V-League champs win 4 Billion

Binh Duong celebrate their 3rd V-League championship success
Becamex Binh Duong became champions of the Vietnam League at the weekend with a game to go, to become the first team to claim three V-League championships. They might also claim the National Cup with a final against Hai Phong in two weeks time. Binh Duong is in the southeast of the country, immediately above Ho Chi Minh City, and their success this season, they finished 8th last term, has been built on a solid defensive unit that has conceded just 22 goals in 23 matches and a team where goals come from all quarters. The average attendance across the V-League this season has been a little over 7,600. Binh Duong will be heading to Hanoi at the end of October to join Phnom Penh Crown in the Toyota Mekong Club Championship, which opens up a mouth-watering proposition. As champions of the V-League, they will collect prize money of US$188,000 (or 4 Billion dong), which is light years in front of the paltry US$15,000 Crown received for winning the Metfone Cambodian League. In fact the C-League and its neighbours in Laos, where champions HAGL Attapeu won the title last week and took home just US$12,500, fall way behind the prize money on offer in the rest of the Southeast Asian top divisions. In Singapore the champions will get a winners cheque for at least US$200,000, the Thai Premier League champions will get even more, upwards of US$300,000, while the Malaysian champs get a little under US$100,000. Big money thanks to cash flowing in from a flotilla of sponsors and backers. The Cambodian League has a long way to play catch-up as far as the monetary benefits of winning the championship are concerned.

Player hot-line

Baldwin Ngwa, Jeongho Kim and Rafael Oliveira celebrate our Championship success with a selfie
Phnom Penh Crown player movements: Head coach Sam Schweingruber confirmed today that two of the club's foreign players, Rafael Oliveira and Jeongho Kim, will not have their contracts renewed and are leaving the club. Sam had this to say about Brazilian midfielder Rafael; "Rafael came to us with a big reputation from his time in Vietnam. However, his spell in Cambodia was full of very bad luck. Injuries have put him out of action and when finally he was back fit, our team was on a winning streak and he didn’t manage to get enough chances to play. He deserved to be playing more as he has impressed everyone at the club with his professional attitude and good character. The rules of only allowing 3 foreigners involved in any game made it difficult for Rafael to break into the team. We wish him all the best for his future in football." Crown's head coach was equally appreciative of the part played by South Korean import Jeongho. "We are sad to say good bye to one of everyone's favorites - Jeongho. We will always remember his amazing goals he scored for us. While he always gave his best, he has failed to break into the team on a regular basis - also because of injustice when he was banned for a total of 4 games by the FFC. As a young player of his qualities, he deserves to be part of a team that he gets to play more often - of which there is no guarantee at Crown. This is why we are letting him move on. We wish him success in the future and thank him for his contribution whilst with the club." Oliveira was previously with Brazilian clubs Fluminense RJ, Atletico MG, Democrata GV, then The Cong, Navibank Saigon and Than Quang Ninh in Vietnam, before half a season back in Brazil with America FC. Kim was a top youngster with Kwangwoon University in Korea before joining Crown. Both spent a season with the Cambodian champions.

Putting pen to paper for the next two years to cap a great weekend, is Khim Borey, who got engaged on Saturday, before extending his contract today, to keep him at the club until the end of the 2016 season. Borey joined Crown at the end of 2010 before a season-long loan to Sisaket in the Thai Premier League. Last season he contributed 14 goals in league and cup matches and is widely recognised as one of the country's most talented players, so his contract extension is great news for the Crown fans. Head coach Sam Schweingruber said: "Borey's an important player on the field with his experience, good skill and some very important goals - a few were super important for our season - the late equalizer against Svay Rieng and the free kick goal vs Western. I have often played him out of his usual position - not striker but wing and he always serves the team with his best efforts. Off the field Borey is equally as important with leadership and guidance for our younger players. I am very happy he has chosen to be with us for another 2 years." Borey is one of the few (I dont know of anyone else) who has scored a hat-trick of goals for his country (when he netted 3 v Timor-Leste in 2010), yet the current Korean coach has overlooked him in recent times. His experience and versatility would get him into my squad any day.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tough proposition

Cambodia's U-21 v Laos, back row, LtoR: Samoeun, Tola, Vichet, Srin, Daravorn, Sovan. Front: Chhoeun, Borey, Ravy, Da, Suhana - pic by DeeSler, click to enlarge
Cambodia's U-21 team returned home today after a 2-2 draw in Vientiane with their Laos counterparts, in a warm-up for their Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy matches in Brunei, which start in six days time. Nob Tola and Ros Samoeun gave Cambodia the lead in yesterday's friendly only for the hosts to pull two goals back in the last fifteen minutes. Coach Lee-Tae-Hoon has a few more days with the squad at the Tonle Bati HQ before they head for Brunei. There they begin with a tough game against the home country on 9 August, especially as local hopes are high that the Brunei side can retain the trophy they won in 2012 when they beat Indonesia 2-0 in the final. In 2012 the Cambodia team lost all four of their matches. Brunei's South Korean coach Kwon Oh-son saw his team draw 1-1 with Malaysian side Sabah at the weekend and he will include players from the DPMM side - Brunei's only professional team - that is currently leading the Singapore league, and who won the Singapore Cup last week. For his part, Lee Tae-Hoon, also from South Korea, can include four players who have just won the Cambodian championship with Phnom Penh Crown, so both coaches will have in-form players to count on. Looking at the other teams in Group B that will face Cambodia, Vietnam stand out as potential winners of the trophy. They have just returned from a two-month training camp in Japan and under French coach Guillaume Graechen, they include eleven HAGL players in what is the country's U-19 team. Vietnam are also using the competition to prepare for the AFC U-19 Championships to be held in Hanoi in September. Singapore come into the HBT having beaten Philippines 2-0 in a friendly last week and their team have been playing together in the Prime League, Singapore's reserve division, all season under experienced coach Richard Bok. Malaysia's U-21 team, known as Harimau Muda B, also compete together in the Singapore League, and will also be a real contender for the HBT title. Indonesia, a late entrant into the competition, will also send their U-19 team to compete instead of taking part in another tournament in Europe. It certainly promises to be another very tough task for Cambodia's U-21s, strengthened by the inclusion of five overage players, Kouch Sokumpheak, Sos Suhana, Chhin Chhoeun, Phourng Soksana and Sok Sovan, who carried the captain's armband in yesterday's friendly. The fixtures for Cambodia are:
9 Aug vs Brunei; 11 Aug vs Singapore; 15 Aug vs Malaysia; 16 Aug vs Indonesia; 18 Aug vs Vietnam.
The Vietnam U-19 team, one of the competition favourites

Saturday, August 2, 2014

U-21s in Laos

PPCFC contingent in Laos: Da, Sokumpheak, Vanny (GK coach), Srin, Suhana
Cambodia's U-21 national team are in Laos today, Vientiane in fact, to meet their Laos counterparts, in a friendly match at 6pm, to give the two teams some match practice ahead of the Hassanal Bolkiah Cup that will begin in Brunei next week. Both teams are in different groups in the Brunei competition. A few of the countries will be sending their U-19 teams to take part in Brunei, but not Cambodia. They have even bolstered their U-21s with five overage players, as allowed by the competition rules with Phnom Penh Crown skipper Kouch Sokumpheak adding his considerable experience to the team, fresh from collecting the MCL Championship trophy last Sunday. Lee Tae-Hoon is in charge of the U-21s, as well as the senior team, and there are obviously some of the U-21 players who will feature for the senior side in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers due in October. It's not ideal for Lee to be in Brunei for a couple of weeks while his seniors are back in camp at Tonle Bati, but he knows best. Apparently. The last time Cambodia were in this invitational competition, Feb 2012, they lost all four games to Brunei, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Malaysia. This time around they will face Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. It will be intriguing to see whether the U-21s can put a much better performance.
The U-21 squad of 18 players is as follows: Vichet, *Chhoeun, *Soksana (Army), Vathanaka, Samoeun, *Sovan (Boeung Ket), Phearun, N Borey, Ravy (Nat Police), Da, Srin, *Sokumpheak, *Suhana (PPCrown), Daravorn, Udom, Phallin, Tola, Pidor (Svay Rieng). * = overage.
Final Score: Laos U-21 2 Cambodia U-21 2. Cambodia led through goals by Nob Tola and Ros Samoeun but had to settle for a draw as the home side came back to level in the last fifteen minutes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Off to China

Sam in Beihai, China this week
Phnom Penh Crown's head coach Sam Schweingruber is in China. He headed out immediately after his team won the Cambodian League Championship on Sunday evening. He's there for four weeks on assignment with FIFA and coaching young children and fellow coaches across the country. This week he's in Beihai in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi. It's actually the world's fastest growing city. He's coaching 25 coaches and 300 children in a city which was hit by their worst Typhoon in 25 years and which killed 31 people only last week. Here he is with some of his students. Next week he's off to Shenyang in northeast China. Certainly he has no time to rest after a long hard season. On his return he will need to click the gears back into action with the club expecting to take part in the Toyota Mekong Club Championship, to be played in Hanoi, Vietnam between 31 October and 2 November this year, involving the champions from 4 countries namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crown waste no time

Va Sokthorn, wife and daughter in Crown colours
Phnom Penh Crown have been quick off the mark to sign up their first new face for next season. The fizz is still not flat from the champagne of Sunday's success before the club turned to France, the home of bubbly, to recruit another French-Khmer player in the shape of  Va Sokthorn, who will officially join the club on 1 October. He will join his compatriots Bin Thierry and Kok Boris. Head coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say: "Sokthorn came to us for a few weeks on try-out and has impressed us with good technique, speed with the ball and a drive towards goal. He has also frequently scored. We have to work on getting him to understand how we want to play and will have to see in which position he best fits into the team, but certainly his arrival will give our squad more depth and quality. We are very excited that Sokthorn has agreed on terms and is going to join us soon." Sokthorn recently celebrated his 27th birthday and has lots of experience in the amateur Championnat de France leagues, the fourth tier of the French football system, with teams like ES Torcy, FC Montceau Bourgogne, US Motte Servolex, SO Chambery Foot 73 and last season scored 17 goals in 14 matches for Le Creusot JO. He prefers an offensive midfield role but is happy to play anywhere. His Khmer parents are from Kratie and Prey Veng though he was born in Le Creusot in eastern France. The player himself expressed his happiness in signing on the dotted line for Crown. "I've been in Cambodia for six weeks, I really love my country and would love to stay here and play my football here. I have followed Cambodian football for many years, so I am very happy to have signed a contract with PPCFC for one season. I've been training with the team for the last three weeks and I've loved it. The players and the coaching staff have been very helpful and very good to me. They made the decision to join the club very easy for me to make. I was wanted by clubs at good levels in France but my priority was to play in Cambodia and PPCFC have given me that opportunity. I will be back in October to begin training and I know I will need to prove myself and show my best form. I was so happy that the team won the Championship and I was here to see it. And I am very happy that I will have an opportunity to play with great players like Kouch Sokumpheak, who for me is the best Khmer player I have seen." Sokthorn was here with his wife Vita and their young daughter Sothyanna, and will return to France in a few days before coming back to begin training in October. He previously worked in a supermarket and played football as an amateur but he can now realise his ambition to play full-time football in Cambodia and he's looking forward to it.

Your country needs you

The Crown players, LtoR, are: Thierry, Yaty, Boris, Sokumpheak, Sothy, Da, Suhana, Srin, Pheng
Kok Boris and eight of his Phnom Penh Crown teammates went straight into Cambodia national team training camp at Tonle Bati after the domestic season ended on Sunday. They may've won a hard-fought Championship but there is no time for these players to rest and relax. Boris has sent me this picture of the 9 Crown players involved in the U-21 and senior squads and also tells me that the senior team beat the U-21s 2-1 in a short practice match yesterday, Laboravy scoring both for the seniors, Soksana for the U-21s. The U-21s travel to play in Laos in Saturday in a friendly against Laos U-21s. They then come back for a practice match against local opposition before heading out to spend much of August in Brunei taking part in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy. Cambodia will meet Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in their group in the Brunei tournament. The U-21s from Crown are Thourng Da and Ngoy Srin, and two overage players out of five allowed, Kouch Sokumpheak and Sos Suhana. The rest of the Crown players will remain in camp with the senior team who will also be off to Laos from 12-20 October to play in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers involving five countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and hosts Laos.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Club awards

Kouch Sokumpheak getting his MVP award from the club president Rithy Samnang
The end of the domestic season is usually accompanied by awards and presentations and Phnom Penh Crown are no different to any other club, holding their own awards ceremony after last Sunday’s match as they enjoyed some relaxing fun time at Da Sandro’s Panini Bar on Street 63 and Demo Bar on Monivong Boulevard. There were 11 awards, both serious and fun, and the winners were:
Most Valuable Player = Kouch Sokumpheak
Best Goal = Bisan George vs TriAsia
Best Save = Yok Ary vs Western
Best Assist = Adriano Pellegrino vs Police
Best Free-kick = Khim Borey vs Western
Best Sportsman = Tony Obadin
Most Improved Player = Ouk Sothy (Messi)
Best Celebration = Hong Pheng
Most Important Goal = Kouch Sokumpheak vs Naga
Worst Tackle = Neou Sosela vs TriAsia
Worst Miss = Leng Makara vs Naga

Phnom Penh Crown also handed out their own set of Academy awards this week before the youngsters took a break to spend time with their families. Recognition went to the following Academy players:
Top scorer for U-17s – Chhuot Senteang
Top scorer for U-15s – Mao Piseth
Best Academy Student- Orn Chanpolin and In Sodavid
Most Improved Player – Pov Ponvuthy
Best Behaved Player & Student – Orn Chanpolin
Best Leader – Ouk Sovann
Most Improved Behaviour – Suon Noeut and Kong Chanvuthy.
A big well done to all the Academy boys. We are very proud of them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reaction from the dressing room

PPCFC celebrating their success - courtesy of Pou Neang/CamSports
I spoke to some of the Phnom Penh Crown players for their reaction to winning the Metfone C-League Championship.
Crown’s marquee signing Adriano Pellegrino gave his view on what winning the Championship meant to him. “I think it’s been sensational, that’s the right word. Honestly, it’s been a dream come true to come here and have an impact on the team and to be talking right now about winning the championship by 7 points, it’s amazing. It’s been a dream for me, being presented with that medal today and holding that trophy was honestly one of the best moments of my career. I’ve been very pleased with my performance. There was a lot of pressure on me when I first came, to do well and to push on – we had one goal as a team, to win the championship. My personal goal was to come and contribute, score goals and assist my teammates, and today I got another assist to cap it off, which I was pleased with, so all in all I’ve been very pleased with my personal contribution. Most of all our goal was to win the title, and to win the last game where there was nothing to play for, but we trained really hard this week and even though people might say the season was already over, Sam made sure that we won today. A great finish from everyone. Sensational.”

With 52 goals in 3 seasons of football in Cambodia, George Bisan has proved himself a lethal striker. A goal-machine. And he did what his coach Sam Schweingruber wanted him to do when he signed George before the season began, to realise the dream as a team and his dream as a striker and to get success. So how did George view this season? “I feel very excited to win because of the hard work throughout the team and we wanted to achieve this goal and God helped us, so its a great honour and joy. I’m very excited to win the championship trophy. I’m very happy with my own contribution, a little bit sad I cannot get the Golden Boot but at least I won the championship, so that’s enough for me. Next season I will be more explosive, so I will look to next season to get the Golden Boot. I’m very happy with the team because we all work so hard and encourage each other. Especially Adriano who encourages me in the field of play, and Sokumpheak, who tells me to remain calm, relax and play my game as the goals will come. I thank God for the courage he’s given me and for our success this season.”

Odion ‘Tony’ Obadin has just completed his 4th season with Crown and collected his second Championship medal. It would be hard to find a better clubman, and example to his teammates. So we asked Tony how did this success compare to 2011. “It’s not much different to 2011, we worked just as hard this time around as well. My first season was really great, then two seasons where we didn’t achieve enough, we lacked a few things like self-discipline and team discipline. The difference is now that we have so much discipline, teamwork in abundance, hard work and some great quality throughout the team that has really helped us. I can say it was a good season for me personally, last year I was okay but I didn’t perform as well as I did this year. To get five goals this season and a couple of assists and I stepped up my whole game from last season. I’m very happy.”

Crown captain Kouch Sokumpheak flies out to Laos this week with the Cambodia U-21 team for a friendly match, but I caught up with him to ask for this thoughts on winning the Metfone C-League Championship this year, which made it a hat-trick of Championship successes for the former Khemara Keila player. "I'm very happy and very excited to win it again. The second and third times were more meaningful for me as for the first championship I was used not so much and was substitute a lot. Now you can see how much the Cambodian players have improved than before, the same with the different foreign players we now have from so many nations. In my opinion, Crown won the championship because we prepared so well at all levels and we had unity throughout the club, the coaches and the players. The players like each other on and off the pitch, we are like a family. The leaders and administrators are great too. Everyone worked very hard, and worked together, to get this success. That's why I believe we deserved it. For me personally, I'm very happy as I can play a lot of games this season and contribute more to the team. I was so happy that I scored against Naga so that we could win the trophy. Very happy. I'm very pleased we won because we had to work really hard all season, whether under the hot sun or the rain. And I'm glad to win as I am getting old now and I don't know what will happen in the future."