Phnom Penh Crown. There are other teams they could join but only Crown are putting their full weight behind the development of the Kingdom's young stars. Their Elite Football Academy trials have been taking place across the country this month, in order to identify the best of the talent in the provinces and cities at age 13 and under and to give them a real stab at achieving their dream. This morning in Takhmao I went along to the 13th such trial that Crown have arranged and there are still another 4 to go before the culmination of their nationwide search will be the final trials in Phnom Penh early next month. From those final trials, the best 22 will be selected to join the full-time Elite Academy, a residential football and schooling programme never previously undertaken here in Cambodia. Crown are bringing the development of youth football into the 21st century.
This morning 45 young boys gave it their best shot at achieving that dream. On a dust-bowl of a pitch in Takhmao, they ran, tackled and shimmied their hearts out for nearly two hours under the scorching sun. At the end, just two boys earned selection for the final trials with another 4 in reserve. It's been a similar story across the country as the Crown youth coaching team of Bouy Dary, Kao Kiry and Hao Socheat have taken to the road to find the cream of the country's best youngsters. Turnout numbers have varied, with the youth of Pursat, Battambang and Kratie coming out in force, as did the boys in Phnom Penh. Take the example of 'Christiano'. He models himself on the Real Madrid star, both in his looks, particularly his hairstyle and his game, and he was so keen to follow his dream that he persuaded his parents to drive more than 30kms to this morning's trial. He gave it his best shot, didn't make the cut but at least he tried. He can never say he didn't give it a go. As the rest of the boys got on their bicycles to pedal home, two of the youngsters had the widest smiles of all and they will be coming to the final trials in a couple of weeks time, their dream still intact.