Sok Sovan in action against Malaysia in the recent SEA GamesTwenty-one year old central defender Sok Sovan is a man on a mission. To establish himself as a regular fixture in the Phnom Penh Crown team and to continue to play for his country, as he did in the recent SEA Games in Indonesia. Born in Phnom Penh and schooled at Bak Touk High School in the city, he initially signed with Khmer Empire in 2006 before they merged to become Phnom Penh Empire a year later. With appearances for the first-team restricted, he was loaned out to the National Police in 2010 and again to Neak Khiev at the start of last season in order to gain valuable experience. He'd already represented Cambodia in Malaysia's festival of football at U-14 level and then played all five matches in the AFC U-16 qualifiers in Indonesia in 2007, where the team acquitted themselves well, beating the hosts and drawing with Vietnam and Hong Kong.
Sovan started last season with some game time in the warm-up matches and in the early Hun Sen Cup ties before his three-game stint with Neak Khiev, who just failed to gain entry to the Metfone League. On his return, Crown coach Bojan Hodak went with more experienced heads and it was left to David Booth to give Sovan his chance at the back-end of last season's Championship-winning campaign. "I got my chance when other players were out through suspension. I was very pleased to get the opportunity to show what I could do, having sat on the bench all season long. I felt fit and strong, very relaxed and happy to show my ability in such important matches for the club." David Booth selected him for the crunch game against Naga and Sovan did well enough to keep his place for the final game of the season against Preah Khan. "I felt confident, fit and keen to play well. They were important games for Crown, the type of games I want to be involved in, week-in, week-out."
Following two friendly matches against the Cambodia U-23s and two substitute appearances in the AFC President's Cup final stages in Taiwan for Crown, Sovan was called into the Cambodian SEA Games squad and played three games in the BIDC Cup and another friendly against Nepal. "I was extremely happy to get the call. I've been in the national team at U-16s but this was for the SEA Games. I felt proud to represent my country at such a prestigious competition. The national coach had faith in me and I have faith in him." Sovan played every minute of the four SEA Games matches played by Cambodia, alongside the vastly experienced Sok Rithy at the heart of the defence, though Cambodia lost each of their matches. "I was happy with my own performances but as a team we didn't do as well as we'd hoped. It was a great experience, playing against such strong teams and to be honest, there wasn't a big difference between us and the other countries. If we can train together as much as they do, I believe we can get a lot closer to them. We had a good team spirit amongst the players, we were proud to represent our country and I hope to be able to do it again." Predictably Sovan is looking forward to the new season. "I've got a lot more self confidence now, after that run of matches. I feel I've improved my game and I can't wait to get started again. I want to be part of a winning team and Phnom Penh Crown are definitely the best club in Cambodia. We have the best coach, the best players, the best facilities, everything to make us the top team. Now we have to go out and prove it again next season."