Captain Thul Sothearith is Crown's most experienced President's Cup campaigner with 10 matches under his belt already. Photo: Nick SellsThough it's the first time that the AFC President's Cup will be hosted in Cambodia when Group A takes place on 21-25 May here in the capital, it's certainly not the first time that members of the Phnom Penh Crown squad have played in the competition. Take Crown skipper Thul Sothearith for example. He's already played no less than ten matches in the competition, whilst Tieng Tiny isn't far behind with nine cup games under his belt to-date. Sothearith was a member of the Khemara team that reached the semi-finals in 2006 and played in all of their four matches, as did his teammate Tiny. The following year Sothearith made another three appearances for Khemara and then clocked up three more for Phnom Penh Crown in 2009. Tiny also played in the same three games for Crown that year, but also registered two more games for Naga in the 2008 competition. The earliest appearance in the President's Cup for any current Crown player was Sun Sopanha's two substitute appearances for Hello United in Nepal in the first-ever competition, way back in 2005. Sopanha also played twice, as a sub, for Crown in 2009. Hok Sochivorn was also on the same Hello bench in 2005 but didn't appear and the same thing happened again for Naga in 2008, so he's yet to record any playing time in the cup. If we go back to Khemara's good run in 2006, a certain Kouch Sokumpheak also played 4 times, scoring once and then played another 3 games for Khemara the following year, 2007, scoring three times, so that augurs well for later this month.
Other players who have performed in the AFC President's Cup include Chan Chaya, though whilst he didn't get off the bench for any of Khemara's 2006 cup run, he played in all three of Crown's 2009 matches. Chan Dara was also with Khemera in 2006 and started one match, San Narith played three games for Khemara in 2007, whilst Sun Sovannrithy lined-up for Naga in their three matches in last year's competition. For Crown's 2009 entry into the cup, Phoung Narong started all three matches, goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay also appeared three times, once as a sub, Chim Rathanak played two games and Hong Ratana managed two substitute appearances. Last but not least, Soeng Vanthan got on the pitch as a sub on one occasion. So for 13 members of Crown's 23-man squad for this season's AFC President's Cup, they have tasted the best international club competition that Cambodian teams can enter and will bring that experience to bear when they step out for Crown in a couple of weeks time. That experience will be invaluable.