The Phnom Penh Crown Crown players and staff await the AFC's judgementA massive bombshell has shaken the Cambodian League champions, Phnom Penh Crown, to the core. The investigation into the on the pitch flashpoints at the end of the AFC President's Cup Final between Crown and home team Taiwan Power Company, played in Taiwan on 25 September, has finally been concluded by the AFC Disciplinary Committee. And it makes tough reading for Crown followers. The AFC have found three players - Chan Chaya, San Narith and Sun Sovannrithy - guilty of assaulting the match referee, Marai Mohammed Alawaji from Saudi Arabia, and have been suspended from all football competitions, both international and domestic, for a period of 6 months. Two of the players, Narith and Sovannrithy have already left Crown and look likely to join Naga Corp. It was in the fourth minute of added-on time, with Crown losing 3-2, that the three players reacted stupidly to what they saw as a nailed-on penalty when teammate Hong Ratana was scythed down from behind, though the referee, in his report, indicated that he had already blown for a handball by Ratana. All three of them pushed the referee in the chest, as did Thul Sothearith, but his actions have been overlooked by the AFC, and were subsequently red carded once the referee had composed himself. They will now sit out all competitive football for the next six months.
The second sequence of events to come under the scrutiny of the AFC Disciplinary Committe were the shocking scenes witnessed moments after the final whistle. As the Taiwan Power players began to celebrate, substitute Kuao-Kai Pan raced from the bench to attack Hong Ratana from behind, sparking a mass brawl between players from both sides. For their part in the fracas, six Crown players have been found guilty of misconduct against an opponent and involvement in a brawl and have been suspended from all football competitions, both international and domestic, for the next eight matches. Those players are Peng Bunchay, Kingsley Njoku, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith and Suong Virak.
The reaction of the Phnom Penh Crown management, having waited for the AFC investigation to produce its findings, has been swift and tough. In a club statement issued this afternoon, Crown have immediately terminated the contracts of six players – Chan Chaya, Peng Bunchhay, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith and Suong Virak. Of the remainder, Sun Sovannrithy and San Narith have already left the club and Kingsley Njoku’s contract has expired.
The club's official statement reads as follows: PPCFC cannot condone the behaviour of players, who while representing the club, have been found guilty by the AFC Disciplinary Committee of assault and serious misconduct. At PPCFC we sincerely believe that we must lead by example in our behaviour and attitude both on and off the pitch, particularly in encouraging the youth of Cambodia to follow the true spirit of the game of football. In light of this, we therefore find the behaviour of the players found guilty by the AFC to be totally unacceptable and have taken the course of action explained above. The Crown President, Rithy Samnang, added his own statement to the club's comments. “I was devastated by the reaction of some of my players in the AFC President’s Cup Final in Taiwan and have waited to hear the judgement from the AFC Disciplinary Committee. I want my team to play the game of football in the right way, to be an example to our Academy boys and the rest of the youth in Cambodia. This is a key element running through the backbone of Phnom Penh Crown FC. Everyone worked so hard last season to bring more success to the club but the actions of some players have tarnished the reputation of the club and Cambodian football throughout Asia. This is why we have taken such robust decisions. We must remain strong and stop this from happening ever again,” stated the Crown chief.
In anyone's book, that is a bombshell of nuclear proportions. In one fell swoop, head coach David Booth has lost a big chunk of his successful squad, who carried off the Cambodian League title and took the club to their best-ever international cup run. The players who have been released are for the most part, experienced professionals, having represented their country but who for a few minutes at the end of a fiery cup final, lost their heads completely and must now pay the ultimate price for their actions. For Crown it's clear, their irresponsible behaviour effectively undid all the hard work put in by the club's players and staff to achieve what most people thought impossible and a stand must be taken to avoid any repetition in the future. It's a tough lesson to learn for all.
There is no word on whether any action has been taken by the AFC against Taiwan Power Company.