Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
With Naga in control, they increased their lead after the interval with a tap-in from Joseph Oyewole, who then headed against an upright. He dominated the game in midfield and will be a big player for Naga this season. We had some fun and games with ten minutes to go. Prek Pra keeper Yok Ary hurt his hand making a double save and swapped shirts with full-back Khin Voeun, as they'd already used their quota of substitutes. Five minutes later, Ary showed why he's a keeper and not a full-back with a clumsy challenge on Oyewole and Sun Sovanrithy despatched his 2nd spot-kick with ease. An easy day at the office for the league champions. Like their fellow newcomers Chhma Khmao the day before, it could be a long, hard season ahead for Prek Pra Keila.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The new sponsors of the Cambodian Premier League are obviously the Vietnam-based mobile telephone supplier Metfone in a sponsorship deal worth $1.5million over the next three years. The league champions will receive a cash prize of $15K and like last year, at the conclusion of the normal league season, instead of the best team for the previous five months rightfully earning the title of champions, we'll then have a Super 4 play-off in August to decide the top four league placings. Quite frankly it's not how I would run a league competition but on the other hand, the play-offs last year provided great excitement and generated extra revenue. The Crown manager Be Makara suggested to me yesterday that if the federation wants an end of season competition then it shouldn't decide the destination of the league title but instead provide a top-4 battle to decide which team should go forwards to the AFC Presidents Cup. But of course he would say that after Crown won the league competition last term but failed in the Super 4.
One new rule introduced yesterday was that each team can only play 3 foreign players in any one game. That means if they start the game with 3 foreigners, that's their limit and they cannot replace a foreigner with another import during the game. Last season, the rule was 3 foreigners at any time. The new rule smells fishy to me. A few of the teams have signed a raft of new imports but some of them are still awaiting visas and so will remain on the touchlines for the opening games.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Be Makara is a very pleasant chap. We chatted as we watched the afternoon's second game, with the Crown team manager saying how pleased he was to begin the new league campaign with an 8-1 win. He extolled the virtues of his new acquisitions, with The Prince top of the list but he also enthused about lively winger Keo Chea, who also scored on his debut, after arriving a couple of weeks ago from Kep. Midfielder Friday Nwakuna has hopped over from Naga though didn't get a start today, as has striker Goodluck Cliff from Build Bright United. Sani Saidu, another from the powerfully-built foreigners stable, will undoubtedly form a rock-solid central defensive partnership with Tieng Ting, after joining Crown from Preah Khan Reach. Other newcomers include strikers Heng Sokly (Phuchung Neak) and Sok Pheng (Khemara), whilst left-winger Chan Rithy has finally moved to play his football in Thailand with Nakhon Phanom.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
The opening weekend of matches looks like this:
Saturday 27 March
2.30pm Phnom Penh Crown versus Wat Phnom
4.30pm Preah Khan Reach versus Chhma Khmao
Sunday 28 March
2.30pm Naga Corp versus Prek Pra Keila
4.30pm National Defense Ministry versus Khemara Keila
On Wednesday 31 March, Kirivong will meet Build Bright (3.30pm).
Friday, March 19, 2010
Talking with The Prince
Without doubt, the most exciting discovery of the current Cambodian Premier League season has been the prolific goalscorer and the CPL's leading marksman with 21 goals in 18 games, Uche Prince Justine of Spark FC. With his muscular physique, blistering pace over 20 yards and an ability to hit the ball hard, 'The Prince' has left many of his opponents trailing in his wake as he's taken the CPL by storm and all at the tender age of 18. He'll be 19 at the end of next month. His goals tally and his performances look even more impressive when you realise how young he still is. Justine arrived in Cambodia last November on a mission. "To play football in Nigeria you have to be very good and very strong. I was just a little boy and I needed to improve myself abroad before I return to play in my homeland. Many of my fellow countrymen do the same because its hard to get a contract with a professional Nigerian team. There are just so many players competing for a few places. Coming to Cambodia, signing my first professional contract, playing with Spark and scoring so many goals in my first season has been very good for me. I have learnt a lot and this will help me improve my game," he told me during our chat in the Olympic grandstand after he'd wrapped up his season with a hat-trick against Phnom Penh Crown.
"When I arrived last year, I joined the Samnang Development Academy team here in Phnom Penh, who help and guide young men like me who want to play their football abroad, especially here in Cambodia. A friend of mine, who played here, told me that I could succeed in Cambodia and that's why I came. Samnang shared the same training pitch as Spark and after a couple of trial games, I signed on for Spark." It was a marriage between two newcomers to the CPL, as Spark had just been promoted. "I joined Spark as they were new to the league and so was I, so I wanted us to grow and learn together. And that's what has happened. We've all learned so much, we are no longer boys in the league and our experience will make us better next year. My aim was to make sure we were not relegated and my goals have helped us do that, so I am happy for the team and my teammates. It's not just me, the whole team have improved so much and helped me score so many goals." With his 21 league goals out of Spark's tally of 30, it's clear to see how much of an impact he's had, as Spark finished their season one place above the relegation zone. There was talk mid-term of him joining Phnom Penh Crown during the transfer window, but that didn't materialize and instead, he simply got on with doing what he does best, scoring goals. With their final game against Crown just completed, I asked Justine about a couple of opportunities that he'd had in the game when he elected to pass and not shoot. "Football is a team game and I truly believe that. We play as a team at Spark and if I think I have a 40% chance to score but someone else has a 60% chance, then I will pass. As I did in today's game. Of course I love to score goals but I also want my team to succeed, and that's very important to me, because they are my friends as well as my teammates." I am absolutely convinced that with a more selfish streak in him then Justine would've scored many more goals this season, and I'm sure that will come as he gets older and more experienced.
So where did he learn to play his football? "I was born in Imo State in southeast Nigeria. Like every boy in my country their dream is to play football. I played for the Arugo FC Academy, which is a nursery club for youngsters, up until I was fifteen. I was lucky to then join the Orashi Academy and did well. I scored two goals that helped them win the play-off to get into the National Amateur league when I was seventeen and just before I came here. But I was just a little boy in Nigeria and I wanted to succeed, so decided to try and do that in a different country and environment. I have been happy to do that in Cambodia." He's certainly proved himself in the CPL this season and he puts that down to confidence in his own ability and as a devout Christian, he gives thanks to God as well. As an Imolite abroad, he'll hope to follow the lead taken by the most famous Imo State son, Kanu Nwankwo, who starred for Ajax and Arsenal, as well as won the Olympic football gold medal with Nigeria. For now, Justine is happy with his progress and with the season coming to a close, thoughts will now turn to the next stage of his development and career. With such a fantastic first season in Cambodia, I'm sure his exploits will have alerted clubs around the region and Spark will face an almighty challenge in holding onto their rising teenage star.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
The opening weekend of matches will look like this:
Saturday 27 March
2.30pm Phnom Penh Crown v Wat Phnom
4.30pm Preah Khan Reach v Chhma Khmao
Sunday 28 March
2.30pm Naga Corpv Prek Pra Keila
4.30pm National Defense Ministry v Khemara Keila
On Wednesday 31 March, Kirivong will meet Build Bright (3.30pm).
One casualty of the season even before the league matches begin is Preah Khan Reach's former national team coach, Prak Sovannara. His team finished in 3rd place in the recent Hun Sen Cup tournament and that wasn't good enough for the PKR hierarchy. Third place was also PKR's finish in last season's league competition, though they had led the way for much of the campaign. The likelihood is that PKR will soon appoint a foreign coach to take over. As for Sovannara, he is the best qualified football coach in the country and should be back in work soon enough.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I thought that the best person to review Match Fixer would be someone who has played football in Australia and Singapore (as the lead character in the book did), who's worked in the media and who knows Asian football inside out. Step forward Scott O'Donell, the national football team coach of Cambodia, who kindly penned the following review after reading through Humphreys' new novel:
Match Fixer by Neil Humphreys
Neil Humphreys has taken me back in time with his latest offering, Match Fixer.
Having played and coached in Singapore, Match Fixer was something that I could obviously relate to. Humphreys' intimate knowledge of Singapore and in particular the S-League, is an entertaining and somewhat disconcerting view of life as a professional footballer through the eyes of failed West Ham Reserve team player Chris Osborne.
Having failed to make the grade at West Ham, Osborne ended up in Singapore via Australia to ply his trade in one of South East Asia’s newest football leagues. While enjoying success and being the new superstar of the S-League, Osborne gets entwined in a complex web of drugs, karaoke lounges and bookies.
It was his presence at a party of a well known foreign publisher that he found himself caught in a situation that proved very difficult to get out of. As you will discover, his honesty and unwillingness to co-operate with the bookies very nearly cost him his career.
The characters in Match Fixer are people all of us who have been involved in football anywhere in the world can relate to: Danny Spearman, the failed ex-pro from UK, Billy Addis, the expat journalist and Yati, the beautiful Sarong Party Girl. All of whom contribute to this fascinating tale of football and Singapore’s underworld.
While this piece of fiction is a must read for anyone looking for an entertaining and fascinating novel, anyone who has been involved in football in South East Asia whether as a spectator, a player or a coach will be able to relate to it.