|The PPCFC Academy squad pose before the match begins. Click to enlarge.|
An overnight stay in the provinces and an exhibition match against a district team in front of hundreds of spectators summed up an enjoyable weekend for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters. The squad of players left after the first-team match concluded on Saturday afternoon, taking three hours to reach Suong, where the boys stayed in a guesthouse overnight on the outskirts of the city. Early next morning, an hour-long bus ride took them deep into rubber tree plantation territory, passing through the Chup plantations and onto the Cham Muslim stronghold of Roka Po Pram commune of Tbong Khmoum district. A large crowd and noisy loudspeakers greeted their arrival as the local population had turned out in big numbers to welcome the Academy team, with a crowd of around 1,000 thronging the pitch cum kick-off time. The field wasn't in good condition, it was uneven and covered in litter, so the Academy boys spent their time before warming-up, by walking the pitch collecting rubbish. Last week most of the squad were in Malaysia as part of the Cambodian U-14 national team, this week they are setting another example, collecting rubbish watched by hundreds of people.
The match against a representative team drawn from the district, with ages ranging from 13 to 18, included half of the local team playing in bare feet and consisted of three halves of thirty minutes each. The food sellers had set up their stalls, and the watching crowd took up their positions along the touchlines and behind both goals, often encroaching on the pitch. Crown dominated much of the first period, though their neat passing football was a tough ask on a pitch that didn't offer any help for their style. In fact a shocking bounce deceived Seut Baraing and the locals took the lead only for Sath Rozak to smash home a 20-yard drive into the top corner to level the score just as the whistle went. Another unpredictable bounce helped the district team take the lead at the start of the second half and it wasn't until the last kick of the half that Crown equalised a second time. Mat Sakrovy's shot was spilled by the keeper and Theang Chaya followed in to poke the ball over the goal-line. With spectators high in a tree behind one goal they had a great view of the goal. In the third and final half, Crown dominated again but had to wait until the very last minute before going in front for the first time. A kick on Thy Ronaldo gave In Sodavid the chance to win the game from the penalty spot and his nerve held in front of the big crowd. A 3-2 success and an enjoyable though tough game against their provincial opponents. The boys were treated to a home-cooked lunch in the Cham Muslim village of Rokar Po Pram by their hosts before they headed back to Phnom Penh, after another successful weekend in the provinces.
|Any vantage point was used by the big crowd|
|The two teams line-up before the match gets underway|
|The crowd behind the goal. The referee is wearing a PPCFC blue shirt.|
|Penalty area action|
|It was great to see so many villagers out in force to watch the game|