Thursday, March 31, 2011
The big kick-off
Phnom Penh Crown when they kick-off the new season against their arch-rivals Preah Khan Reach in the fixture everyone wants to see, at 3pm this coming Saturday. The season's long-awaited opener will see a host of new faces for Crown, who've added no less than a dozen signings to their squad after a break-up of last season's successful championship-winning team. With new coach, Croatian-born Bojan Hodak now at the helm, and an unexpected quarter-final defeat in the pre-season Hun Sen Cup competition still rankling, Crown will want to stamp their authority from the off, and what better way than to beat the pretenders to their throne, the eventual cup winners, Preah Khan. With the Military Police-backed outfit looking to give youth its head this season, alongside the veteran faces of Ouk Mic and Sam El Nasa, Crown have instead turned to some of the Kingdom's most accomplished players to steer their path to re-capturing their league title. With top-drawer signings in the shape of striker Kouch Sokumpheak, defender Sun Sovannrithy and play-anywhere San Narith, Crown have staked their claim on the shoulders of the tried and tested, as well as adding three Nigerian imports to the mix, including Kingsley Njoku from Singaporean football, who looks destined to repeat the feats of Crown's leading scorer last term, Prince Justine, now plying his trade in Thailand. With just five teams in the C-League looking to use foreigners in their line-ups this season, the competition is set to have a much more local flavour to it and with Preah Khan relying heavily on homegrown youth, the season's opening match on Saturday is poised to provide an early inkling as to which direction the title will be heading. Crown coach Hodak will be missing winger Chim Rathanak, out with a tear in a leg muscle, while Sun Sopanha is also doubtful after picking up a knock playing for Cambodia in the AFC Challenge Cup last week against Kyrgyzstan. For PKR, coach Rith Dikar will be hoping Khuon Laboravy can maintain his golden touch in front of goal, after top-scoring with 22 goals during their team's collection of the Hun Sen Cup. With only 1 game on Saturday, the C-League's opening week 1 - which was swapped with week 9 just a few days ago by the football federation in an effort to start the season with a bang - Naga Corp will meet National Police in Sunday's top game of two, Kirivong facing Prek Pra in the other, whilst next Wednesday, BBU versus play-off winners Chhlam Samuth and new boys Rithisen against Army will provide the early season action.