Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doing it the right way

David Booth comments on his new-look squad
Phnom Penh Crown are the only club to hold a pre-season press conference. One of the reasons is that Crown are determined to adopt a professional outlook to how they approach the sport, another is to generate interest and develop a club identity and partisanship. We need to drag Cambodian football kicking and screaming into the professional era. Whether you like us or not, PPCFC will continue to do things the right way. Today's press conference at the Crown Sports Bar on Street 200 saw eight television stations and numerous printed and online media in attendance. Later in the evening I saw the event as the first item on the Bayon TV sports news, even nosing ahead of the Barclays Premier League. And this is what we want to achieve, promoting our own football, Cambodian football, ahead of the 24-hour, wall-to-wall football that's beamed in from overseas.

At today's press conference, I did a brief introduction, with Vann Piseth translating before handing over to Crown president Rithy Samnang, who spoke about the club's recent track record of success and the desire to increase the Crown branding with a new restaurant opening up in a couple of weeks opposite the Olympic Stadium. The construction of two Futsal pitches at the club's training headquarters is another soon to be completed addition. A new electronic scoreboard at the Olympic Stadium will also carry the Crown name. The president also spoke about the club's achievements in the AFC President's Cup and confirmed that he was keen to host one of the competition's qualifying groups this season, as he did last year. He also thanked and named the club's sponsors.

The club's head coach David Booth then spoke about his playing squad ahead of the new season and answered questions from the media. Amongst his comments were the following: "We have 13 new players, all of them are at a young age and due to circumstances, we have decided to look to the future with a much younger team this year. The Hun Sen Cup will give us the opportunity to check out our new young players and see how they perform. The players from last season did a fantastic job for me and the club, but we have decided to bring in new younger players for the new season, as well as give the reserve players from last season, a chance. It's time to find out if they can play at this level."

He continued: "It's a good time to change things around, to look to the future and if it works, this team can stay together for the next 2-3 years. My senior players are strong in mind and body and they will help the younger ones, who can learn from the senior boys. It's a bit of a gamble, but one we're prepared to take. We want to bring on younger players - Cambodian football needs to do this - but it does mean a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of our senior players. But they are strong enough."

David Booth spoke about his new-look squad: "If you look at the players we have, it's a very strong attacking line-up. We made many chances last season but didn't convert them, this year we feel that the team is even stronger going forwards. We are looking to play exciting, attacking football. We go out to win every game, we don't worry about the opposition, we concentrate on ourselves. In our team, we have some of the best players in Cambodia and if I was the coach of our opponents, I would be worried if Borey, Sokumpheak, Sok Pheng and Suhana were up against my team. We needed to revamp our midfield and we've brought in attack-minded players. Our defenders are young and lack experience, so they'll have to get up to speed quickly, but you can see the potency of our attacking play."

Four of the Crown squad, Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey, Sos Suhana and Am Oudom, all wearing the new playing strip, then answered questions from the media, before the Academy head coach Bouy Dary spoke about the club's plans to increase the international competition for the Academy boys this year, as well as concentrating on a second intake of young hopefuls towards the end of the year.
A look at the top table, though Rithy Samnang appears to momentarily disappeared
A view from behind the top table at today's event. Photos courtesy of Huy Darith.

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