Friday, May 20, 2011

Cut short

Crown coach Bojan Hodak instructs his players at their washed out training session this afternoon
Another full to brimming day in the build-up to the AFC President's Cup. The Phnom Penh Hotel was the first port of call to get the conference room ready for the Team Manager's Meeting at 11am, which was attended by the AFC officials, the Federation big-wigs, each of the 4 teams sent at least three people and all of the referees and other officials. More than thirty people in total. These meetings take place to run through the rules, so everyone knows what's expected of them. Necessary but all of it is contained in the competition regulations. They ran through what colour strips will be worn by the teams in each of their games. I can reveal, exclusively, that Crown will wear the following colours for their three AFC President's Cup matches:
v Don Bosco; Red shirts, black shorts, white socks. Goalkeeper will be all green.
v Abahani; Blue shirts, black shorts, black socks. Goalkeeper will be all green.
v Neftchi; Red shirts, black shorts, white socks. Goalkeeper will be all orange.
Immediately following the manager's meeting, we held a press conference to give the local media the opportunity to ask questions of the 4 team's officials. Bojan Hodak was quizzed, as was the coach of Neftchi and the team managers of Don Bosco and Abahani. As the Khmer press boys were pretty quiet I had to pose a few questions, whilst being filmed by a couple of television channels throughout. Bojan stated; "Nefchi are the natural favourites, whilst the Bangladesh team are quite experienced in this competition. I think Don Bosco and Crown are at the same level. But the plus for us is that we are at home, with the crowd behind us." Both Don Bosco and Abahani felt the kick-off times might make a difference as they usually begin their games, in similar temperature conditions, at 4pm and 6pm. Abahani and Neftchi both felt their foreign players were going to be key, Don Bosco will rely on their team game and their faith, whilst Bojan's response was; "We have 11 good players, any of them can decide the match." After a bite to eat, the latter part of the afternoon was spent avoiding the rain at the Olympic Stadium. Just as the Crown team arrived to train on the pitch, the heavens opened and they were resigned to stretching exercises underneath the main grandstand. The rains slacked off enough for the squad to manage a brief sprinting session behind one of the goals, but the rain returned and the lightning in the background wasn't too promising, so Bojan called it a day. They did no ball work at all. The Crown squad are in high spirits, collectively they can't wait to get started, are hungry to get the competition underway and tomorrow is a great chance to post a winning start to the tournament. A quick check on the booths outside the stadium, selling match tickets and the newly-arrived jerseys and scarves, before we headed to an 'officials only' welcome dinner at a seafood restaurant near Calmette Hospital. All the teams were represented, as were the AFC and match officials and an enjoyable meal was had by all. Tomorrow, it's down to the main business but tonight was time to relax ahead of the big event.
Bojan Hodak looking like he means business, whilst I appear to be carrying a 'man bag'
The Crown squad listen intently to coach Bojan Hodak
Skipper Thul Sothearith calls his teammates to order with Hodak looking on
Crown line-up before their session ends
The rain clouds reduced the Crown training session to a real quickie
The top table at this morning's Team Manager's meeting with Federation and AFC officials
One of two booths outside Olympic Stadium selling match tickets and Crown souvenirs. The lovely girls are an added attraction.

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