Thursday, March 24, 2011

New boys on the block Neftchi

Likely to be Phnom Penh Crown's toughest opponents when the AFC President's Cup roadshow comes to Cambodia in May, Neftchi Kochkor-Ata from the former Russian Republic of Kyrgyzstan are essentially a brand new club. They only came into being in their present form in February 2010, just before the start of the six-team Kyrgyz championship campaign. Taking everyone by surprise, they captured the league title by a point to bring to an end the six-year domination of the championship by Dordoi-Dynamo (twice winners of the President's Cup themselves). The Neftchi team, who missed out on the double by losing the cup final to Dordoi-Dynamo 3-0, is composed of players who didn't make it at the other top Kyrgyz teams as well as striker Taalai Dzhumataev, who top scored with 15 goals, having arrived from provincial side Kambar-Ata last year. Their veteran goalkeeper Zakir Djalilov feels that the AFC President’s Cup will give much-needed exposure to their young side. “Our team is still too young and participation in international tournaments will help us gain necessary experience. It’s always good to start with such an important event.” Russian coach Alexander Krestinin’s charges are preparing for the season by taking part in the CIS Cup, where they lost all three matches, and some friendlies. However, they recently defeated the Kyrgyzstan national team 2-0. Neftchi, which translates roughly as 'the Oilers', hail from Kochkor-Ata, a dusty little oil-producing town in Kyrgyzstan's southwest Jalal-Abad province. The Kyrgyz Republic was formed in 1991 upon the break-up of Russia. Crown have previously faced Kyrgyz opponents on two occasions in the AFC President's Cup, meeting Dordoi-Dynamo both times, in 2005 and 2009, losing 6-1 and 3-1 respectively.

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