I've heard from Sok Sovan today that he and Phnom Penh Crown teammate Sok Pheng are both included in the final party of 20 players selected for the Cambodian U-23 squad for the forthcoming SEA Games in Indonesia. The team travel to Jakarta on Saturday and face their first big hurdle when they meet the hosts, Indonesia, on Monday. There have been lots of financial inducements bounded about for the Cambodian participants in the SEA Games who come home with medals from NagaWorld and the Prime Minister chipping in as well, though that is very unlikely to happen with the football team. They are ranked well below most of the countries competing in this month's Games and are pretty much guaranteed to finish bottom of the 'Group of Death,' Group A, unless there's a series of minor miracles in their matches against Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It ain't gonna happen. Even the Phnom Penh Post, known for their fence-sitting, came out of their hole in the ground to heap a bit more pressure on Lee Tae-Hoon, Cambodia's national team coach, on their back page today. PPP's Indian sports writer Manju admits Lee has been less successful than the coach had hoped and had been unable to get the best out of his team. With Cambodia's series of inept results during Lee's tenure over the last 14 months, I'd call that a gross understatement. Neverthless, Manju reckons that Lee is determined to answer his critics and prove his detractors wrong. Well, this writer is all for that. Bringing home the SEA Games gold medal would be just dandy. The PPP journo also talks about the World Cup defeat in Laos and suggests that 'the controversy rumbled on in another form when armchair critics and self styled experts pounced on him with accusations of playing down the significance of World Cup qualifiers.' Bollocks. The Cambodian camp had said well before the Laos games that the SEA Games were the target and the World Cup was basically an inconvenience. You don't have to be an armchair critic or self styled expert to point out that those sort of ill-informed comments fly in the face of every football fan in the country and anyone who has an interest in the beautiful game. Success in the World Cup, however fleeting, is something to treasure and should not be derided in favour of a regional competition, in which you know you will get badly mauled anyway. I've never been a big fan of Manju's reporting style and his sneer at anyone who dares to comment on local football or the national team takes the biscuit as he and the PPP rarely climb from underneath their rock with any opinion piece worthy of the name when it comes to football. They are usually far too busy with the tennis.
The final 20-man selection should be published tomorrow. With the Group A games taking place on the following dates, I will most likely be out of internet range for all of them except the final game, so I apologise beforehand for not providing my usual service when it comes to crucial games and especially national team games. I'll be on an island in the middle of the Mekong River.
Cambodia's SEA Games schedule:
7 Nov Indonesia v Cambodia at 7pm
9 Nov Singapore v Cambodia at 7pm
11 Nov Thailand v Cambodia at 5pm
13 Nov Malaysia v Cambodia at 4pm