Thursday, September 12, 2013

Incoming new faces

 Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber has moved quickly to strengthen his playing squad before pre-season conditioning training begins in earnest in early October. The Swiss tactician had this to say about his two new signings this week, Touch Sokheng and Neou Sosela, both on 1-year contracts. "Both Heng and Sela are experienced and quality additions to the team, providing the depth to the squad we lacked last season. Now a few more contract extensions and some more new faces and we are ready to challenge for the coming season." 

Both new arrivals are midfielders though Sosela usually plies his trade down either flank, and both, at 23 years old, have a point to prove after stuttering phases in their respective football careers. It's certainly something Schweingruber hopes will work in his team's favour and of course the players as well. "Sela is a quality addition, giving us options on the wing with his pace. I'm well aware of the number of yellow cards he got last season... and have stressed the importance of discipline so Sela knows that he will only be the important player he can be, if he has his temperament under better control." The diminutive winger exploded onto the scene back in 2009 when his electric pace and tricky footwork bamboozled defences for his Army team and made him the darling of the country's national team fans as Cambodia's U-23s won the BIDC Cup under Scott O'Donell. Sosela was a big part of that success though injury cost him a place in the SEA Games. He returned to win the Hun Sen Cup with Army but fell out of favour and spent almost two years on the sidelines, even spending ten months with NagaCorp, but unable to turn out due to the Army's intransigence. A move to National Police at the start of 2012 rekindled his career but three suspensions last season blighted his copybook. For Sosela, his move to Crown signals a new phase. "Crown are an organised and well-structured club who have international standards. I need a challenge to improve myself and I want to work with a strong team which wants to win and with players who have the same mentality. Crown has all of that," explained the Phnom Penh-born dynamo who fans nicknamed Chaly, comapring him to the small, nippy motorbike of the same name.

Alongside him, a former Army teammate, Touch Sokheng, will be out to prove a point after kicking his heels on the Boeung Ket substitute's bench for most of last season. As Schweingruber explains: "I see Heng as a central midfield player and believe he has been played in the wrong position at Boeung Ket... but time will tell. We were a bit lacking depth, meaning not enough options when a player was injured or out of form or lacking discipline, that left us with a totally inexperienced bench with not enough attacking options in important games last season. Heng rarely got a chance at Boeung Ket and he is hungry to show what made him an important player in the seasons before. Boeung Ket signed too many players and ended up wasting some talents on the bench. We hope Heng can pick up his form and get back to his old strengths." Sokheng is a native of Koh Kong and after moving to the capital in 2008 he hooked up with Phnom Penh Empire for a year before moving onto Post Tel. The Army was his next port of call for three years before he switched to Boeung Ket before the start of their C-League winning season in 2012. Looking forward to a new opportunity with Crown, Sokheng said: "I want to improve myself and with so many good players at Boeung Ket, my chances were limited. So I want to show my ability again with a fresh start and I'm very happy to join a club like Crown, and reunite with my former Army colleagues like Borey and Sela. I want to win things and play my part in helping Crown to more success."

In addition to the two new faces this week, Schweingruber has been boosted by the signature of playmaker Kouch Sokumpheak on a new 2-year contract. "I'm very happy to have agreed terms with Pheak and put an end to speculation over his future. He is in his best football years right now and I believe we have still to see the best of him, so we are happy he can now focus fully on preparing for a new and exciting season ahead." Other clubs had been reportedly sniffing around the popular player, who originally joined Crown in November 2010 from Khemara Keila. We can expect some more newcomers through the doors of Crown over the next few weeks, especially when pre-season training begins and the club decide on their quota of foreign players for the coming season.
Touch Sokheng

Neou Sosela, aka Mr Chaly

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