Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bojan's the man

Phnom Penh Crown's new Croatian-born head coach, Bojan Hodak
The cat is out of the bag. The new head coach and big-name signings at Phnom Penh Crown have been announced moments ago on the club's website. Read it in full here. In keeping with their 'thinking out of the box' mentality, Crown have appointed a European coach, Bojan Hodak, who has wide experience both in his home country of Croatia but also in Asian football, playing and coaching in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. He was a no-nonsense centre-half in his playing days, earning himself a reputation as one of the best defenders during his time in Singapore with Jurong and then made a splash in his first club coaching stint with UPB-My Team in Malaysia, that started out as a television reality show before taking on a life of its own and gaining promotion to the top flight. He arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday with his family in tow and began work on the training ground with the Crown squad at their Tuol Kork training HQ the next morning. Crown face the French Khmer Select XI at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday (3.30pm) in their first pre-season friendly, so he'll get an early look at his charges in action.

Most of the successful squad that carried off the C-League Championship last season have been retained. There are a few exceptions but in the main, the same faces will be in action again in Saturday's friendly game, but with some very notable additions. Add the two best homegrown strikers in the country and mix with one of the most accomplished utility players and you have yourself a trio of new arrivals that will send a shudder through the ranks of their C-League rivals. The country's pin-up strikers, Kouch Sokumpheak (aged 23) and Khim Borey (21), have been prised away from their old teams, which wasn't easy as both of them remained loyal to Khemara Keila and the Army for the last five and four years respectively. They have played alongside each other for the Cambodian national team for the last few years despite their tender ages and look set to make another big impression on the C-League this season with their new club. Joining them is San Narith (24), a national team colleague, who can play at left-back or in central midfield, after time with the Army, Khemara and Preah Khan Reach.

Also strengthening the Crown squad are two new arrivals from the Singapore League. They are Nigerian-born duo, Odion Obadin (21), a central defender, and striker Kingsley Njoku (24). Both players spent three years each at Gombak United in the S-League after progressing through the tough Nigerian academy system and playing professional football in their own country before moving to Asia. Their previous experience in the professional ranks of Singapore will bring a new dimension to the foreign contingent that usually ply their trade in Cambodia.

Crown are quick to point out that they are still looking to add more names to their squad before the action really kicks in at the start of the new year when the Hun Sen Cup will begin. Coach Hodak is looking for half a dozen friendly games at least to whip his team into shape and that might include some action abroad. The club will also be competing in the AFC President's Cup and the Singapore Cup next year, so making an impression in these regional Asian competitions is firmly on the agenda for 2011.
Coach Bojan Hodak keeps a close eye on his Crown squad during training yesterday
Crown's two new arrivals from Singapore, Odion Obadin (left) and Kingsley Njoku. More photos to follow.

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