Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Metfone C-league enters its penultimate weekend of the regular season on Saturday when a real humdinger pairs leaders Naga against 2nd placed Phnom Penh Crown, who lie 7 points adrift. In the second match Saturday, BBU can guarantee their play-off spot with a win over already-relegated Chhma Khmao. On Sunday Preah Khan can also book their play-off place if they beat the Army, while Prek Pra might just save themselves with a favourable result against Khemara. This weekend promises to make the picture a lot clearer - personally I don't expect Kirivong to make the play-offs and I believe Prek Pra will retain their C-League spot. Let's see if I'm right.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
To give the new Cambodia national team coach - South Korean Sejin Yeo is believed to be the main contender for the job - a headstart, here is my squad of twenty players, who in my opinion, having watched 90% of this season's C-League games, deserve first dibs under the new coaching regime. Most of the names will be familiar as the majority played in the national set-up under the last two coaches, Prak Sovannara and Scott O'Donell. There's no getting away from it, they are the best homegrown players in the C-League. I really wanted to include some new faces like Rim Bunhieng (BBU), Tes Sophat (Kirivong), Ek Vannak (Khemara), Suong Virak and Phuong Soksana (Army) but the established squad members simply couldn't be dislodged, based on form throughout the current season, which is just about to reach its climax.
I have included some fresh faces in my top twenty such as the Army's Thong Udom amongst the defenders. He's still just 18 and has a lot to learn but he's definitely one for the future. In midfield, Crown's Sun Sopanha has impressed this term, as has Khemara's livewire Hou Sambo, so they both get the nod, whilst in a dual role, the evergreen Sam El Nasa has played himself back into contention with a string of fine showings. Hard to believe he's only 26 years old as he's been around forever, though the oldest player in the squad is Pok Chanthan at 27. There's a four-way tie for the youngest, at 18, between Sou Yaty, Thong Udom, Oum Kumpheak and Keo Sokngorn. Also back in favour is Teab Vathanak, who is back to his goal-poaching best this season with 16 goals to-date.
So there you have it, no major shocks or surprises in my squad of 20, it pretty much picks itself apart from one or two slots that are up for grabs. If your own choices differ from mine, let me know as I'll be interested in your observations.
My squad with club and age in brackets:
Samreth Seiha (Army, 20), Sou Yaty (Army, 18).
Sun Sovanarithy (Naga, 23), Lay Raksmey (Preah Khan, 21), Tieng Tiny (PPCrown, 24), Sok Rithy (Preah Khan, 19), Pheak Rady (Army, 21), Thong Udom (Army, 18).
San Narith (Preah Khan, 23), Oum Kumpheak (Army, 18), Khuon Laboravy (Preah Khan, 21), Pok Chanthan (Naga, 27), Chhun Sothearath (BBU, 20), Hou Sambo (Khemara, 23), Sun Sopanha (PPCrown, 23).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (Khemara, 23), Khim Borey (Army, 20), Keo Sokngorn (PPCrown, 18), Sam El Nasa (Preah Khan, 26), Teab Vathanak (Naga, 25).
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Postscript: The name of the new coach of the Cambodian national team is Lee Tae-Hoon, a 39-year-old former assistant coach of the South Korean women's team.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Coaching Cambodia - by Antony Sutton, Pictures by Andy Brouwer
When the Cambodian national football team lines up for Nokoreach – the national anthem – their Australian coach Scott O’Donell feels a pride that comes from having a strong, emotional bond to the country. Unlike many expatriates whose attachment to their temporary home is whimsical at best, O’Donell has a part of him that is as Khmer as the temples of Angkor and the waters of the Tonle Sap.
O’Donell’s football career started with a number of New South Wales State League teams where he made his mark as a rough and ready defender. From an early stage in his career he was open to plying his trade overseas and at 21 he was recommended to the Napier City Rovers team in New Zealand, where he spent a short time on loan. For an impressionable youth from Sydney, it was an exciting opportunity to play alongside Brian McAllister and Johnathon Gould; sportsmen who had played at the highest level in England.
Soon enough he found himself back in Australia as Raul Blanco – who he admits was “the best coach I played under” – saw enough potential to sign him for the National Soccer League (NSL) and O’Donell enjoyed several seasons in Sydney’s Western suburbs playing his part in one of the most attractive teams in the League. Football in Australia was very much a minority, part-time sport. O’Donell combined football with a teaching job and also coached the school team. With an eye to the future, he continued to work hard and slowly started acquiring his coaching badges.
His ambition for the game was far too great for him to remain in Australia and he was adamant to make it his profession. However, he wasn’t alone. Opportunities Down Under were limited and some of the biggest names of the time could be found playing in both Malaysia and Singapore. In 1994 he finally got the chance to join Kuala Lumpur. A few years down the line, he moved to Singapore. Living and working in the Lion City, he met a number of people who adopted Cambodian children and that got him, and his wife Margaret, contemplating over the idea. After making exhaustive enquiries in 1998, they decided to visit Cambodia for the first time and set in process the wheels for adopting themselves. They visited a number of orphanages in the city and met with relevant government departments before returning home victorious with an adopted daughter, Emma. Twelve months later Ellie was adopted and their Singapore home was filled with two bubbly toddlers.
In 2005 Scott returned to Cambodia. He had been coaching Geylang United in Singapore when the Cambodian Football Federation approached him and asked if he would like to take over their national team. “I have to say that I am very proud to be the national coach of the country where both of my daughters were born. I feel it is an honour,” he says. As for his plan for the team, O’Donell’s goals are realistic and long term. While most of the world are gearing up for the World Cup in South Africa, the coach is working hard to lead Cambodia on the road to the next World Cup, Brazil 2014, when they have their first qualifiers in October.
There is also the small matter of regional pride at stake in the ASEAN Football Federation Cup. Cambodia, one of the lower ranking nations in the grouping, will have to fight it out with East Timor, Brunei, Laos and the Philippines for the right to mix with regional powerhouses like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar, who have all previously secured the title. Work takes Scott all over the country scouting for young talent who can make the step up to the national team and one thing that stands out is the positive attitude of the young sportsmen. O’Donell marvels that while “We do not have the resources to prepare like most of our opposition, they have pride in playing for their country.”
As for his family, the O’Donells stay based in Singapore with constant trips to Cambodia and Christmases spent in Sydney. It’s a global lifestyle and one his daughters have adapted to. And while the two girls may not be “tossing a shrimp on the barbie” or dancing the ramvong in their spare time, they have their feet placed firmly in both cultures and the O’Donells are keen for that to continue.
At the top of the table, the Saturday match-up between Naga and Kirivong is an intriguing game. Naga are 5 points clear at the top of the standings whilst Kirivong need a win to maintain their push for a Super 4 spot. With striker Julius Ononiwu in red-hot form, Kirivong will fancy their chances I'm sure, especially as Naga haven't set the world alight this season, basing their top spot on churning out results rather than putting their opponents to the sword. Having said that, I predict a draw. On Sunday, down-in-the-dumps Army will most likely lose out to Phnom Penh Crown, whilst the Preah Khan versus BBU match will be an important one to win for both sides. I think Preah Khan will just edge it.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Talking of Preah Khan Reach, they took time off from their C-league adventures to pop over to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to play the Malaysian U-21 team in a friendly and narrowly lost 4-3. Khuon Laboravy scored twice in the first half and teenage sub Chan Vathanaka also netted but the Malysians were just too strong for them.
Monday, July 19, 2010
It won't be the first time that a South Korean has taken charge of the national team. Yoo Kee-Heung was hired as the coach in December 2007 as part of a sponsorship deal but he was fired seven months later after a string of poor results and the discovery that he wasn't suitably qualified. Homegrown Prak Sovannara, currently in charge of league leaders Naga Corp, was the next to take on the job for a year before Aussie Scott O'Donell returned for his second spell in June of last year. Scott decided not to stay longer than his one-year contract hence the need for a new coach. The Suzuki Cup qualifiers will be in Laos during October where Cambodia will battle alongside Laos, Philippines and Timor Leste for two spots in the finals, to be held in Indonesia and Vietnam in December. With the Metfone C-League due to come to a close at the end of August, the new national coach will have the month of September and half of October to prepare his squad for the qualifying matches. Two World Cup qualifiers were also originally due to take place in October, but have been put back to the middle of 2011. I await developments with interest.
Wat Phnom opened the scoring in yesterday's game when Leang Soksamnang was the only player to ignore a linesman's waving flag, spotted the referee waving play on, and slotted the ball home on the half-hour. The goal stood despite the Black Cats' protestations. They equalised within two minutes when skipper Sok Kolamara kept his cool to finish well after showing the Wat Phnom defence a clean pair of heels. Ry Phearoeun gave Wat Phnom the half-time lead with a sidefoot finish on 37 minutes. The Black Cats fightback began with a penalty by Men Piseth and then a minute later Buth Chanra headed in a Kolamara cross to send the blue shirts of Chham Khmao into a celebratory frenzy. In a game littered with mistakes by both sides and lacking the creativity and finesse of Sunday's opening game, Wat Phnom clawed their way back for a point when Men Piseth failed to clear and Leang Soksamnang dived full length to head the ball across the line for a share of the points. Not the best football to be seen but entertaining nonetheless. And surprise, surprise, referee Khuon Virak kept his red card in his pocket, just flashing yellow on 4 occasions.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
The rains came as Naga kicked off against Khemara and took a 9th minute lead when Kop Isa rolled the ball in after a neat wall pass from Teab Vathanak. Within a couple of minutes, Kuoch Sokumpheak had whacked in the equaliser courtesy of the underside of the bar. Naga sub Meas Channa curled a free-kick to keeper Hok Visokra's near post and he could only help it in off the post to give Naga the half-time lead. Khemara came out gunning after the break and in less than a minute, Suon Makara levelled when he latched onto a long ball to guide his shot home, whilst Naga keeper Mak Theara remained rooted to his line. Just 4 minutes later, Sokumpheak put his team ahead for the 1st time from the penalty spot after a needless handball by Joseph Oyewole. They held out for another 13 minutes before Tiet Chandara Sokha ventured forward from full-back and poked in the equaliser to his obvious delight. Both sides had opportunities to take the lead and just as I was thinking that Teab Vathanak had been starved of chances to add to his 15-goal tally, he popped up to get his head in front of a defender from a quick Meas Channa corner and Naga had won it. They didn't deserve it but they have been winning these sorts of games all season, so why stop now. No red cards flashed by referee Thong Chankethya but he did dish out 4 yellows.