Match officials in the Metfone C-League are a constant source of bemusement for the fans and players alike. Let's take both of Saturday's games. Khuon Virak was the referee for the Phnom Penh Crown v Preah Khan Reach clash and made three decisions that appeared to change the game. I'm watching from the stands (without the benefit of video replay) and he awarded Crown a free-kick an inch outside the box when Sok Pheng was floored, though it looked as though the incident was two yards inside the penalty area at least. Minutes later, Chan Chaya headed in after Kingsley Njoku had headed the ball across the six-yard box. Both the referee and his lineman were on their way back to the middle when the Preah Khan team surrounded Virak. After thirty seconds of jostling, pushing and screaming in his ear, the referee was persuaded to go to his linesman who changed his mind and did indeed see a handball by Njoku, even though he failed to flag for it at the time. Njoku was booked and the goal chalked off. But why didn't the match officials see it first-time and avoid all the subsequent furore? Very late in the game, Crown defender Chan Dara appeared to push a PKR player in the back inside the penalty area but Virak waved play on to everyone's amazement, and Crown's relief. And don't even get me started on Virak's failure to caution some of Preah Khan's players for repeated infractions.
In the second game of the afternoon, in which the Army just managed to squeeze past a plucky Western University team 2-1 with goals by Phourng Soksana and Pov Phearith, referee Chi Samedy was the center of attention. Late in the game, with Western pushing for an equalizer, the referee bizarrely red-carded Army keeper Sou Yaty for a challenge, which I thought should've gone the other way. As Yaty trudged slowly off, the Army players pointed at a raised linesman's flag for an earlier offside call - this time the linesman did see an infringement and kept his flag up to catch the referee's attention (which is what the linesman in the earlier game had failed to do) - so Samedy rescinded the red card, Yaty re-took his place between the sticks and Army hung on to win the game.
Watching both matches was the newly-revealed head coach of the Cambodia national team, Hok Sochetra. I'm not sure when he takes up the position or when the current incumbent, Lee Tae-Hoon formally closes the door behind him, but the appointment has caught a lot of people by surprise. Sochetra was the golden boy of Cambodian football, scoring goals for fun in the 1990s before having a stint as player-coach at Samart United, who he led to the 2002 league title. He went into hibernation for a while before re-emerging as an assistant coach with Preah Khan Reach and then more recently has been responsible for the national futsal team and was called into assist with the U-22 squad that were just knocked out of the AFC Asian Cup. He was one of a batch of Cambodian coaches who qualified for the AFC A-licence in early March and this recognition appears to have won over the Cambodian football federation, who have now appointed him as the man to lead the country in the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Myanmar. To assist him in his new role, he's turned to a few of his former national team colleagues with Ieng Saknida, Meas Channa, his younger brother Hok Sochivorn and goalkeeping coach Suong Phirum coming on board. By comparison, the appointment is akin to Alan Shearer being made the England head coach, the fans' favourite as a player and now expected to repeat the success as national coach. Sochetra definitely has his work cut out to gel a team together ahead of the Suzuki Cup matches in October, and very little time to do it.