The Super 4 play-off semi-finals are almost upon us. These are the football federation's way of deciding the Metfone C-League champions, choosing a bleedin' play-off rather than the title being won by the team who consistently out-performs everyone else in the 18-game league campaign. Boeung Ket won the sprint for the league but won nothing, and are now joined by the next three teams, in the 4-team semis. Boeung Ket play the 4th-placed team, Build Bright, who netted an injury winner to outsmart NagaCorp and rob them of the fourth spot, while runners-up Svay Rieng (who used to be known as Preah Khan Reach but changed their name mid-season just to confuse everyone) will meet Phnom Penh Crown. Both semis take place this Saturday. However, in their infinite wisdom, actually that should be infinitesimal wisdom, the Federation have scheduled the two games to kick-off at the same time, 3pm, at different grounds. Boeung Ket get the Olympic Stadium. Svay Rieng, the Old Stadium. So instead of guaranteeing a bumper crowd at the Olympic Stadium, the FFC have split the matches. Brilliant. Nice job FFC. Again.
Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber, already pleased that his team made the play-offs as well as setting a new league record for the least number of goals conceded in 18 games, with a new total of just 13 goals, is in his first season in charge. He's already posted third place in the Hun Sen Cup and now wants to do better in the Super 4 deciders. He had this to say about his opponents, earlier today. “They are THE team that tries to play good passing football.
Our mission is to stop them from playing. They are young and have good
energy levels as well as a good understanding of each other, despite
their young age. For our part, we have been training well including
today at the Old Stadium, we’ve had special meals and meetings and are
channelling all our attention to this important game. We have worked
very hard in training and shown great discipline in our games in the
second half of the season, aided by important goals from Elroy. We must
have two more disciplined performances and a lot of hard work to become
champions. We are certainly good enough to beat any team remaining in
the final games, but its not an easy task. It will require strong team
spirit and that bit of luck to go our way.” He has a full squad to choose from and the FFC have decided to be generous with their yellow card count, by knocking a card off the total of each of the players taking part in the semis, so that they have a better chance of making the final. Many of the Crown team for example, at least 8 players, would've missed the final if booked in the semi, and their team progressed. By the way, in line to get the Fair Play Award for least cautions/dismissals are Svay Rieng.
It will be interesting to see which referee is appointed to the Crown semi-final. My money is on Khuon Virak. Why? Well for reasons known only to themselves, the FFC has sent Virak out to officiate in six Crown matches this season (out of 18), including four of their last six games. It makes no sense at all that the same referee is appointed for so many games, absolutely no sense. It got to the stage where Virak was the man in the middle for three consecutive matches, and for the three matches before that, Saing Sopheak was in charge, each time. This is an area that needs serious investigation by the FFC.
Last but not least, a little bird whispered in my ear that the South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon, has been earmarked to take over the Cambodian national U-23 team that will take part in the SEA Games in Myanmar in December. I must admit I did chuckle at the suggestion, but the little bird was deadly serious. Re-appointing such an unsuccessful coach - his record in competitive matches was - Played 21 Won 4 Drew 3 Lost 14 Goals For 29 Against 54 - before his demise in the middle of last year, will be a backward step of monumental proportions. But why am I not surprised by the possibility. Watch this space.