Monday, February 25, 2013

CFDL opens its arms

Coach Kouch Sokumpheak with his PPCFC 3 U-16 community team
Sunday morning at 7.30am, and the first game in the brand new Cambodia Football Development League kicked-off with the PPCFC 3 team taking on the Army. Phnom Penh Crown captain Kouch Sokumpheak had got out of bed early to take charge of his U-16 team, all of which are youngsters from the surrounding community and playing together for the first time. They were up against a well-drilled U-16 team from Army and their debut was definitely a baptism of fire. They went down 6-0. Sokumpheak refused to resign, despite ribbing from some of his colleagues. For the boys, they may've lost but at last the formation of the league gives them the opportunity to play competitive football with boys of their own age for the first time and on a regular basis. The U-16 competition looks set to be hotly disputed. The third match of the morning was the PPCFC 2 team, made up of the older Academy players aged 14 and 15, and they faced up against the SCCA team. In chareg as usual with Academy games was coach Bouy Dary. Though the Academy were dominant throughout they missed chances, including a penalty, before Theang Chhaya lobbed the ball in from 25 yards and that proved to be the only goal of the game. In the final U-16 match, PPCFC 1, the younger Academy players aged 12 and 13, found the going tough against the U-16s of Preah Khan Reach and they too missed a penalty early on. Vat Samnang did score from the spot but they went down 5-1. So a mixed bag of results and a great start to the U-16 campaign. Matches are for an hour, 11-a-side on the full-size pitch. In the U-12s, which is 5-a-side and played on the astro-turf at RSN Stadium, the PPCFC 1 team came up against the PPCFC 2 side and won 7-1. Nearly thirty youngsters turned up to join in and this already looks to be a thriving addition to the club's community engagement program with most of the boys coming from the Tuol Kork district. The U-14s begin their matches next Sunday morning. This initiative is Phnom Penh Crown's but it needs the support from all the clubs taking part as well as teams to supply referees to officiate at the games. Members of the Crown senior squad also played their part in taking charge of a couple of matches as well.
These ten U-12s began the PPCFC 1 v PPCFC 2 match on the astro-turf

The U-16 PPCFC 2 team, who won 1-0 v SCCA. Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Sodavid, Senteang, Soksela, Sovann, Titchhy. Front: Muslim, Chhaya, Nuron, Chansopheak, Phearath.

The PPCFC 1 U-16s team who lost to PKR. Back row LtoR: K Chhaya, S Samnang, Baraing, Sakrovy, Noeut. Front: Ponvuthy, David, Rozak, V Samnang, Chanchav, Piphop.

In Sodavid, the outstanding midfielder for the PPCFC 2 team, takes aim

Reporting tilt towards Naga


Hong Pheng (25) leads out Crown against NagaCorp
A footnote to the Phnom Penh Crown versus NagaCorp match is that five of the Naga starting line-up were with Crown last season, namely Chan Dara, Tieng Tiny, San Narith, Sun Sovannrithy and Sun Sopanha. The report of the match in the Phnom Penh Post today was embarrassingly poor. It failed to document Crown's superiority and their penalty miss, or the return to action of Kouch Sokumpheak, and instead focused four of its six paragraphs on Naga's goal, a missed chance and their self-inflicted injuries. Not entirely surprising as the Post reporter sat with the Naga contingent to watch the game.
The NagaCorp starting XI including 5 ex-Crown players from last season

Sam Schweingruber sends his captain to meet the referee

Some of the faces on the Crown substitute's bench

Referee Khuon Virak, who believes players don't have to retreat 10 yards at free-kicks

Coach Sam Schweingruber dicussing tactics with his team

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Soul-searching

PPCFC v Naga. Back Row LtoR: Obadin, Boris, Thierry, Oladiji, Srin, Pheng. Front: Seyha, Makara, Seiha, Suhana, Da - click to enlarge.
Phnom Penh Crown will be soul-searching this week after letting NagaCorp take a point from Sunday's Metfone C-League at Olympic Stadium. They deserved to win this clash of the titans but fell short when it came to troubling the electronic scoreboard. In fact it took 88 minutes before Crown finally clawed back a lead that NagaCorp had grabbed after just twelve minutes. In a first half that Crown dominated in possession and chances but couldn't turn their superiority into goals, it was Naga who took advantage of a defensive lapse. With the Crown backline pushing up, Ishola Abiodun marked his debut with a timely break and cool finish as Samrith Seiha left his goal-line. Two minutes earlier, Nelson Oladiji, on his Crown debut, had fizzed a drive inches wide of the far post after collecting a headed pass from Sos Suhana. Moments after taking the lead, Naga's Teab Vathanak blasted over when well-placed and that was it, as the Hun Sen Cup holders retreated into their own half. Inviting Crown to attack, Oladiji fired wide from 25 yards and Hong Pheng did likewise on the turn. Just after the half hour, Suhana fed Pheng but his stinging effort was tipped over by Naga stopper Phorn Ratana. Twice in as many minutes, Leng Makara found himself with two far post headers but was awry with both. A Suhana corner and a Ratana flap presented him with the first chance, which he headed down and wide. Then Suhana again fed Pheng, his drive was parried into the air by Ratana and Makara sent the opportunity wide again. As half-time approached, Suhana tried his luck but his 25-yard shot skidded wide. The last action of the half saw Oladiji and Odion Obadin challenge Ratana for a deflected Bin Thierry free-kick and somehow the ball ended up going for a corner.

Ten minutes into the second-half and Naga fluffed their second clear opportunity. Choun Chum weaved his way into the box and rolled his pass across the face of goal, only to see Abiodun miscue his touch wide when it seemed easier to score. That was the last we saw of Naga as an attacking threat. With Chum booked for simulation and their players finding any excuse to waste time and role around on the ground, Crown set about their task with gusto. Injury returnees, Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak entered the fray, the latter after a 7-month lay-off with ligament damage, to pep up the team and the crowd, and it was Borey who was instrumental in a change in Crown's fortunes with a telling 20-minute cameo. After Pheng had headed a Thourng Da cross wide, Borey fired in a shot on the turn which Ratana did well to keep out low down at the near post. Sokumpheak sent over a telling cross which Makara and Obadin challenged each other and combined to fluff a great far post opportunity. With eight minutes left on the clock, a Borey foray into the box was ended by a Tieng Tiny trip but Crown found their route to an equaliser blocked when Ratana dived low to his left to halt Thierry's penalty kick, and then used his chest to block the follow-up. Crown's pressing finally paid dividends with just two minutes of normal time to go. Borey pulled out a sublime bye-line cross and as Oladiji challenged Ratana, the ball fell at the feet of Makara and he dispatched it into the net with power and accuracy. Crown sought a winner but Naga's spoiling tactics frittered away five minutes of injury time and the match finished all square at 1-1.

Crown coach Sam Schweingruber spoke of his frustration after the game. "From the beginning we were the better team. From the overall performance we deserved to win. They went one goal up and had a couple of half chances, but there was only one team in it. We struggled with the second ball in the middle of the pitch but corrected that in the 2nd half. We had much better energy and much better purpose, so I'm very disappointed with the result. Being down in the 88th minute, missing several good chances, some hard luck here and there and missing a penalty as well, you might think its not your day. So its good that we got a point and didn't lose. Borey came on, gave the final pass for our goal and had some instrumental touches at the end. And of course we are very happy to see Sokumpheak back on the field. Now we will work on shaping the team, finding out how we work best together and play together."
PPCFC v NagaCorp: Seiha, Da, Seyha (Borey 67), Srin, Obadin, Boris (Sokumpheak 74), Thierry, Suhana, Pheng, Makara, Oladiji. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Kano, Lika, Narin, Sothy, Dary, Morslim, Pisa. Bookings: Seyha, Srin. MOTM: Borey.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jinya the difference

Wonderkid An Jinya (23) and compatriot Yasuyuki Yoshida (33) after today's win
There's a new wonderkid on the scene and he's all left-foot. Japanese-born An Jinya made his debut on the left side of midfield for National Police today and with two stunning free-kicks, tossed aside the efforts of Preah Khan Reach, as the Police ran out 5-1 winners in the Metfone C-League. With Jinya doing the damage at one end, his compatriot Yasuyuki Yoshida at the other, kept out PKR with reaction saves of the highest order from Phany Ratha and Khuon Laboravy. Just after the half hour Jinya showed his ability with a curling dead-ball strike from 22 yards out. A minute and a half later he was on hand to tap home after Sar Sophea missed a cross and Srey Udom's header set up his new teammate. PKR's distant hopes of salvaging something went kaput when Nen Sothearoth was red-carded for two bookable offences seven minutes into the 2nd half. With 70 minutes gone, Jinya stepped up to arrow in another free-kick, from similar distance, sending a warning to every club in the league with his dead-ball accuracy. Laboravy grabbed a consolation from close-in but Police came back with Tith Dina and Srey Udom netting another couple of goals within as many minutes. Udom's was a 30-yard chip after Sophea had erroneously thrown the ball against Dina's legs and the ball sat up perfectly for Udom to profit. On this form, Police will be as big a threat as they were last season. In the earlier kick-off at Olympic Stadium, Asia Euro University looked to be heading for their first win when BBU upset the apple cart with a leveller four minutes into time added on. Kao Viso stole in for a header at a corner. AEU were gutted, leading through Sary Mathnorothin twelve minutes after the break, when he raced onto a long ball and caught Sos Proshim napping on his line. In the game at the Army Stadium, Boeung Ket made it three wins in three, with a late 2-1 win over Kirivong. The Takeo-team had released six players in midweek but looked to be heading for a surprise win when goals from George and Ohuruogu stole the points for the Rubbermen.
National Police will be happy after a 5-1 thrashing of PKR

Back to the drawing board for a disconsolate Preah Khan Reach in unfamiliar blue

AEU will be kicking themselves they didn't close out the win

BBU left it til the 4th minute of injury time to equalise

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Turgid final

Kim Borey, PPCFC skipper, collects the Fair Play cheque

PPCFC line-up with their two cheques for 3rd Place and Fair Play
I had to drag myself kicking and screaming to write a report from Saturday's Hun Sen Cup Final debacle. It lacked everything you would wish from a final; excitement, entertainment and skill. Both teams were completely clueless about how to break the other team down and as a result we had to endure 120 minutes of turgid football. The only event of note within the entire 90+30 minutes extra time was a disallowed goal by referee Thong Chankethya, who else. Sun Sovannrithy fired goalwards on 23 minutes and Army's normally-reliable keeper Sou Yaty made a hash of catching it, let it slip through his fingers and watched as it crossed the line. At least two Naga players were standing on or near the goal-line and though they didn't touch it, the linesman flagged and the goal was cancelled out. The offside rules have been so buggered about with these days that no-one really has the definitive answer as to whether it should've stood or not. In the event, Chankethya ruled it out. So it went to penalties, as did both of the semi-finals, and it was Naga who kept their nerve, scoring all five of theirs whilst Thong Udom missed the Army's opener and left the door open for Naga to win 5-3 on spot-kicks. Through the crocodile tears of joy, Naga collected the trophy and a nice cheque with Choun Chum getting MVP and Phorn Ratana, top keeper, of the tournament. Both decisions I find impossible to fathom. Boeung Ket's precocious talent Chan Vathanaka collected the Golden Boot, while Phnom Penh Crown banked 3rd place medals and cheque and the Fair Play award.
Naga, finally won the Hun Sen Cup in their 4th final

Army, 1 missed penalty and they lose the cup final

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Empowering Asia

HRH Prince Ali at the press conference
I MC'd the press conference for Prince Ali at Raffles Hotel Le Royal this morning. It was the last day of the Prince's three-day visit to Cambodia. As Vice President of FIFA responsible for Asia, but moreso, in his role as Chairman of the Asian Football Development project, an initiative he started himself, the Prince was here to promote and support the fabulous work being done by the Salt Academy and the Mighty Girls programs in Battambang. The AFDP provides sponsorship to the Mighty Girls, who effectively form the Cambodian women's national team. And he was glowing in his comments during his speech at the press conference about the potential he saw in Battambang on Monday, as an example of the empowerment of women through football that he advocates so strongly. He also expressed his admiration for the work Rithy Samnang is doing with grassroots football at Phnom Penh Crown. The common thread is of course Sam Schweingruber who began the Salt Academy and Mighty Girls programs in northwest Cambodia and has now brought that grassroots thrust with him since he joined PPCFC as head coach a few months ago. The Prince remarked that both Samnang and he were of similar ages, with similar dreams and aspirations for the betterment of football, whilst Samnang felt the presence of the Prince at the opening of the new youth league on Sunday morning was a big encouragement for the youngsters to see someone of his world stature at their new competition. Prince Ali also commended the Football Federation of Cambodia, whom he will give 500 footballs to for their grassroots endeavours, with vice president Khiev Sameth confirming that the FFC will begin its own youth academy at the end of this year. Commenting on the problems that FIFA have been experiencing in some quarters, the Prince felt it was healthy that problems are aired and dealt with in a transparent way and that a world body should have no secrets. He spoke positively and passionately about Asian football, emphasizing the importance of focusing on grassroots, infrastructure and developing coaches to uncover the massive potential that exists within the continent. The Prince was seen off at the airport by a contingent of PPCFC staff and players as he headed for his next destination, a grassroots tournament in Bhutan. His time here was brief but memorable for the impact on so many, helping to put Cambodia on the football map on the international stage.
LtoR: Khiev Sameth (FFC VP), Prince Ali and Rithy Samnang (PPCFC President)

Prince Ali with the PPCFC contingent this morning: LtoR: Sam, Andy. Heang, Prince Ali, Samnang, Andrew, Chhi
Prince Ali and his team are seen off by players and officials from PPCFC

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Super Fan Day

PPCFC President Rithy Samnang addresses the masses at the PPCFC Open Day
The second instalment of our own Super Sunday took place at Phnom Penh Crown's RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. For a long while now, the club have been planning on starting its own official Fan Club. Something where Crown fans can feel they belong and start to generate the kind of support that football clubs around the globe take for granted. There is no history of supporting football clubs in Cambodia. A lack of regional-based teams doesn't help and with all the matches played at the Olympic Stadium, there has been little reason for fans to declare their undying allegiance to one club or another. PPCFC want to change that thinking. Hence the formation of the PPCFC Fan Club. Based on a tried and tested formula adopted elsewhere, the fans pay a membership fee ($15 for full and $5 for junior) and in return they get benefits for supporting their beloved club. That includes a team jersey, cap, posters, free telephone sim card and message alerts from co-sponsors Smart Mobile as well as other goodies and online involvement in the future. To help start it all off, Crown held a Fan Open Day on Sunday afternoon, where all fans, not just fan club members, were invited to come and join in the fun, meet the senior players and Academy youngsters, join in with some 7-a-side matches and generally have a good time. It worked a treat. Approaching 200 youngsters and fans joined in, despite the scorching hot sun overhead and the final of the friendly competition went down to the wire, with Ouk Sothy's team winning on penalty kick's against Hong Pheng's side. The Fan Club welcomed its first members with pride of place as the No. 1 member going to ace fan Yin Marady. Now the aim will be to increase the membership and give the fans a voice at all PPCFC matches, where the fan club can be integral in building on the current buzz surrounding the club. Third place in the Hun Sen Cup and a bunch of interesting signings has triggered a lot of interest and we need to continue that momentum into the league season which restarts next weekend.
Ouk Sothy's winning team in the 7-a-side competition

Big day in the sun

300 youngsters celebrate the opening of the CFDL at Olympic Stadium
Long day in the sun. Bright red face. Exhausted but happy as larry, as everything went so smoothly. The morning's youth league opening at the Olympic Stadium went like clockwork considering we had one of world football's top power-brokers on hand to give us his seal of approval. After a quick burger (and indigestion) for lunch it was off to the RSN Stadium to launch the Phnom Penh Crown fan club and hold our first ever open day. Another roaring success in anyone's book. More later when I've had a few moments in a darkened room and applied some after-sun lotion.

Okay I've had said lie-down and am now refreshed. Young footballers from 10-16 are simply not catered for sufficiently in Cambodian football. They get few opportunities for regular sport, let alone well-organised team sports, especially football. The schools rarely cater for it and aside from a handful of clubs, it's all pretty hit and miss. Hence why Phnom Penh Crown have got their heads together with another half a dozen teams to form the new Cambodia Football Development League with age groups set at U-12, U-14 and U-16. It all kicked-off on Sunday morning with a series of friendly showpiece matches, some 300 boys and 1 girl playing across 22 teams, at the Olympic Stadium, on three pitches and a noise level only surpassed by a Justin Bieber concert. The league format competition, which will take place most weekends by the mainly Phnom Penh-based teams, though Kompong Chhnang and Prek Kdam are represented, was timed perfectly to coincide with the visit of Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, one the FIFA's Vice President's no less, who graciously agreed to officially open the league. As soon as he arrived in the country he was whisked off to the stadium, where he was given a rapturous welcome by the youngsters, offered up a speech and then met each team before heading to his hotel. It was a great start for the fledgling competition. The action continued after his departure and all-in-all, an excellently stage-managed event went like clockwork. Hats off to the organisers, oh, that was Phnom Penh Crown then. Now we're off to Tuol Kork.
Guest of honour Prince Ali of Jordan presents one of the PPCFC community teams with a football

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baraing debut

Seut Baraing, who made his debut at 13 years 5 months old, leaves the pitch

With third place in the Hun Sen Cup already in the bag, Phnom Penh Crown's thoughts turned to the rest of the Metfone C-League season that lies ahead and returns to our tv screens next weekend. Crown will meet NagaCorp on Sunday 24 Feb, though Naga's mind will be firmly on their cup final meeting with Army later this afternoon. The Crown squad will be there to collect their 3rd place medals and prize money cheque. Coach Sam Schweingruber decided to give his squad players without regular games under their belts in recent weeks, a run-out this morning with a practice match against Asia Euro University at the RSN Stadium. Odion Obadin and Nelson Oladiji, Crown's foreign imports this term, both played the whole 90 minutes, though Schweingruber rang no less than twelve changes throughout the course of the match. For the last fifteen minutes, he introduced Academy left-back Seut Baraing to senior football at the age of just 13 years and 5 months. He settled in quickly and sent over a couple of crosses to show that he was not over-awed in the least. His proud Academy teammates looked on as the first of their group made the breakthrough into the first-team squad, with whom Baraing trains every morning. To keep his feet on the ground, Baraing will play for the Crown U-14 team in tomorrow morning's new youth league.

As for the match itself, it was even for much of the first half with AEU pressing late on. Within 28 seconds Nelson Oladiji sent a shot skidding wide to announce his intentions. A cross from Hong Pheng was nearly turned into his own net by an AEU defender and then Chhom Pisa chipped a shot over the cross-bar. Crown stopper Sam Chamrouen had to tip a free-kick over his own bar before being beaten with four minutes of the first-half remaining. An AEU striker held off two challenges before rolling the ball past Chamrouen to put the visitors a goal ahead just before the break. Chamrouen was back in action with two diving saves at the start of the 2nd half before Crown took control and it was one-way traffic for the rest of the match. Oladiji rose to head a Mak Phearun center just over the top and Japanese trialist Shota Nakagawa sent the ball into the arms of the AEU keeper from 20 yards out. Oladiji fed Sos Suhana but his effort was blocked close-in before Oladiji lobbed the rebound too high. Leng Makara rose majestically but directed his header wide of the target and Oladiji found room at the far post to head a corner kick towards the top corner, only for the AEU keeper to fingertip the effort wide. It looked a likely equaliser as Oladiji poked the ball to Makara and he bore down on goal, only to steer his shot the wrong side of the upright. With three minutes remaining and Crown getting increasingly frustrated, Oladiji was put in by a neat pass from Nakagawa but watched in horror as his steered shot rebounded off the foot of the post. In time added on Oladiji flashed a 25 yard effort high and wide to call time on Crown's efforts to grab the leveller. It was not to be.
PPCFC line-up: Chamrouen, Dara (Phearun 46 (Pheng 72)), Kano (Da 46 (Dani 75)), Srin (Seyha 35 (Baraing 75)), Obadin, Narin (Lika 74), Pisa (Nakagawa 46), Sothy (Pisa 74), Morslim (Suhana 46), Pheng (Makara 46), Oladiji.
PPCFC line-up from the start. Back Row: Obadin, Srin, Pheng, Oladiji, Chamrouen, Narin. Front: Kano, Morslim, Pisa, Dara, Sothy

PPCFC at start of 2nd half. Back Row: Chamrouen, Obadin, Sothy, Oladiji, Seyha, Narin. Front: Makara, Da, Suhana, Phearun, Nakagawa

Warm-down for Seut Baraing (6 & 16) and the rest of the squad

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Makara on song

PPCFC line-up: Back Row LtoR: Seiha, Boris, Srin, Thierry, Hasan, Lika. Front: Da, Suhana, Makara, Dani, Pheng - click to enlarge

The two most disappointed teams in this season's Hun Sen Cup competition, as they both lost their semi-finals on penalty-kicks, met at the Olympic Stadium this afternoon, under a sweltering sun. Phnom Penh Crown were without top scorer Khim Borey, out with a hamstring injury, so Hong Pheng got the nod as the target man and also wore the captain's armband. Crown began strongly and dominated possession for the majority of the first-half. Bin Thierry screwed his first shot badly wide but soon after got on the end of a well-rehearsed corner kick routine and his goal-bound effort was deflected past the upright by the head of defender Nhim Sovannara. From Sos Suhana's corner, Kirivong keeper Kem Makara didn't get any distance on his punch and Leng Makara sent a looping header into the top of the net from twelve yards out for a 7th minute opener for Crown. Skipper Pheng chipped an attempt into Makara's hands and then sent a 25-yard drive skidding inches wide of the upright, whilst Thierry's free-kick out wide curled past the far post. With so much one-way traffic, Kirivong made two changes and finally began to offer some resistance before the interval.

With Thierry in midfield offering up his best game in Crown colours, his team continued to pull the strings. The Khmer-French import fired straight at Makara just after the break and then Mart Hasan took too much time at the far post only to see his shot blocked. Crown lost Kok Boris to a hamstring pull, making their own double substitution with twenty minutes remaining. Ek Vannak sent Kirivong's best effort high and wide after weaving past two defenders but it was little comfort for the Takeo-based team who offered up far too little offensively. Crown substitute Ouk Sothy curled a drive just past the post and Thierry tried his luck again from distance but without worrying Makara. Samrith Seiha was quick to spot a dangerous long ball and cleared his area before Crown finally sealed the result with a second goal on 83 minutes. Pheng fed Suhana on the edge of the Kirivong area and he in turn squeezed a pass out to Makara on the right side of the box and his aim was true as he stroked the ball into the far corner. Two-nil and coasting. With five minutes left on the clock, a sweeping move of high quality brought Crown a deserved third. A quick-fire one-two between Sothy and the lively Makara, allowed the latter to get behind the Kirivong defence and his timely center was tapped home by a jubilant skipper, Hong Pheng, from six yards out. There was still time for Kirivong's In Vichheka to see red, when he lashed out at Suhana and referee Chi Samedy wasted no time in flashing a straight red card a minute after Crown's third goal. For good measure, Thierry tried one more attempt on goal, only to see it fly wide and the final whistle was blown as Crown secured third place in the Hun Sen Cup competition and prize money of $5,000.

For Crown coach Sam Schweingruber it was a pleasing outcome. "3-0 was deserved. We had to wait too long for the 2nd goal to finish the game off, but the result was a fair reflection of how much stronger we were. I don't think Kirivong had any dangerous situations in the whole game, we didn't allow them to play. Even without Borey we created chances but we took too long to capitalise on them. For the last three months we've worked with Borey up front and haven't worked enough with Pheng. He isn't Borey, he doesn't have the same amount of experience or the same cleverness in some situations, but he did well today. In the 1st half we played some good football, we came with a purpose. Hey, we've made a good step forward, and all in all a good performance today, and it makes me proud when you work on things in training and it comes off in the game like our 3rd goal today. Nice." 
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da, Dani, Lika, Srin, Thierry, Boris (Sothy 70), Hasan (Seyha 70), Makara (Morslim 88), Pheng. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Dara, Kano, Pisa, Phearun. Bookings: Hasan, Makara. MOTM: Makara.
Sos Suhana helps skipper Hong Pheng with his armband

A proud moment for Hong Pheng, as Crown skipper today

Two-goal Leng Makara gets after-match attention from the press

Teamwork by Boris and Dani to aid injured keeper Seiha

Kirivong weren't in the game from the very start

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Prince cometh

HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan
Red hot news. The vice president of FIFA and the main man responsible for Asia at the governing body of world football, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, will be in Phnom Penh on Sunday. We will try to get him to drop by the Phnom Penh Crown Open Day we are holding that afternoon, if his schedule permits. If not, then he will still be officially opening the new Cambodia Football Development League for youths at U12/U14/U16 levels that kicks-off at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning. Matches will start at 8.30am, the opening ceremony will be at 10am with the Prince speaking. The next morning he flies to Battambang for the main focus of his visit to the country, as his Asian Football Development Project sponsors the Mighty Girls program in the second city, part of the ultra-successful SALT Academy that Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber began six years ago. The Prince will return to Phnom Penh and host a press conference on Tuesday morning at Raffles Le Royal Hotel before flying to Bhutan for the next leg of his trip. To get someone as influential in world and Asian football as he is, to visit Cambodia supporting grassroots and women's football, is a major development and cannot be understated. He is the youngest member of FIFA's senior hierarchy, still in his mid-30s, and the man charged with fair play and social responsibility, most recently championing the lifting of FIFA's ban on the wearing of the hijab in women's football.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Penalty hell

PPCFC Line-up. Back Row LtoR: Pheng, Srin, Seyha, Ary, Boris, Thierry. Front: Dani, Da, Suhana, Makara, Borey - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown crashed out of the Hun Sen Cup at the semi-final stage this afternoon, going down 4-1 on penalty-kicks to the Army after extra-time had finished all-square at 1-1. It was their first defeat in seven matches. Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber changed a winning line-up for the tie with Kok Boris replacing Vi Lika in central defense, Men Seyha getting the left-back slot and Kouch Dani moving into midfield. In goal, Samrith Seiha failed a late fitness test and Yok Ary stepped in between the sticks. Khim Borey took the first pot at goal when his 20-yard effort found Sou Yaty at full stretch in the third minute. Army skipper Khek Khemarin had a far post header blocked before Leng Makara moved onto Sos Suhana's pass only to fire straight down the throat of Yaty. Two long-range free-kicks by Bin Thierry and Kouch Dani sailed over the top before Army's Ke Vannak missed his header by a whisker at the far post. With five minutes of the first-half remaining, Khim Borey broke the deadlock with his sixth cup goal of the campaign. Quick-fire passing and one-two's between Hong Pheng and Dani, then Pheng and Suhana gave the persistent Pheng the space to plant a pin-point center onto Borey's head and he gave Yaty no chance from six yards out as he flung himself at the ball. It was easily the best move of the whole game. Three minutes later Borey was stretchered off with a thigh injury and Crown played three minutes of injury time with ten-men as the medical team assessed the seriousness of the injury. In too much pain, Borey was forced to quit and Ouk Sothy started the second-half in his place.

With Suhana pushed into the central striking role, he found room to move onto a Dani pass seven minutes in, but Yaty was equal to his fizzing drive, turning it around the foot of the post. Boris headed the resulting corner wide of the mark. Though Crown were pressing, it was Army who snatched an equaliser on the hour mark from two dangerous corners. The first saw Yok Ary tip Pom Tola's inswinger over the bar but Chhin Chhoeun's follow-up corner ping-ponged around the six-yard box as Ary and his defence failed to clear, before Ke Vannak claimed the final touch amongst a forest of legs. Three minutes later and Hong Pheng's pace took him past two defenders but as Yaty left his line, Pheng guided his final touch the wrong side of the upright and a fabulous opportunity was lost. That was it as far as goalscoring chances though Va Buthtrour's hit and hope from 35-yards nearly caught Ary napping, the keeper just getting his finger-tips to it, in time added on. Extra-time came and went with Suhana going down under a challenge from Yaty but referee Tuy Vichheka looked the other way. With both teams visibly tiring, Ary missed a Chhoeun center that bounced across the face of goal before Dani cleared and two minutes into time added on at the end of extra time, Pheng rose above the crowd to meet Sothy's corner with a powerful header but watched in agony as it sailed over the cross-bar. Referee Vichheka blew and penalty-kicks would decide the finalist. A minute before the end, Schweingruber replaced a limping Ary with the injured Seiha with penalties firmly in mind. However, though Seiha blocked Thong Udom's opening kick, the ball spun agonisingly inside the post, much to Seiha's disgust. Kok Boris was delayed by an argument with officials over shin-pads and then lifted his spot-kick over the top. Ung Dara sent Seiha the wrong way, whilst Yaty dived full length to his left to keep out Suhana's effort. Vannak made no mistake and neither did Thierry, launching his kick into the top corner. Op Kamol needed to convert his penalty to give Army a 4-1 lead and he did exactly that, to send the military team through to the 16 Feb final and to leave Crown in a third-place play-off next Thursday.

Crown coach Schweingruber was not pleased with the outcome. "We played slightly better than the other team but there wasn't enough quality overall to win the game. On 120 minutes we had a free header from a corner and if on target it would've been a goal and we could've nicked it in the final seconds. We looked a bit short up front when Borey was out, but I'm very disappointed about the goal we conceded. We gave away a stupid free-kick and a corner. The amount of dangerous free-kicks and corners we give away and the immaturity in how we deal with these balls, I'm surprised we don't lose every game. Penalty kicks are all about confidence. I thought having Seiha fresh and very confident could bring us the advantage but everything went against us. The first penalty Seiha stops it with his leg but it still rolls in, very unlucky. Then Boris lost concentration in an argument with the referee over whether he wears shin protection or not for the penalty. It shouldn't have happened and that has probably cost us."
PPCFC v Army: Ary (Seiha 121), Da, Seyha (Hasan 101), Boris, Srin, Thierry, Dani, Pheng, Makara, Suhana, Borey (Sothy 46). Subs not used: Chamrouen, Dara, Lika, Pisa, Kano, Morslim. Bookings: Thierry. MOTM: Boris.
The Army starting line-up for today's game

Khim Borey receives treatment for a hamstring injury
Half-time pep talk from coach Sam Schweingruber
The PPCFC coach facing the TV cameras after the match

Friday, February 1, 2013

In a man's world



Lidwina at yesterday's cup game versus Boeung Ket
So what’s the story behind Phnom Penh Crown’s mould-breaking female physio, Lidwina Niewold? For mega clubs like Chelsea its almost common practice to employ female medical staff, but for a team in the Cambodian League it’s unheard of. “As a teenager, my dream was to help professional footballers with their injuries. I come from a football-playing family and played for a girl’s team as soon as I could. But I suffered an injury when I was 20 and didn’t get it treated properly. So I know from my own experience how important it is to make sure players get the best possible treatment. I’m addicted to football, I love it. The fact that I can be involved on the pitch and use my physio skills at the same time is like living my childhood dream.” Brummen, in east Holland, is home for Lidwina. A twin, she has four brothers and a sister and football for girls was popular in her area of Holland, enabling her to play regularly and to help train a girl’s team for a couple of years. She studied physiotheraphy in Utrecht for four years including an internship in Indonesia for six months. “That was an amazing experience. I worked in a hospital and then a small health care center in the countryside, and with disabled children.”

Lidwina arrived in Cambodia in November 2011 to work with Dick van der Poel at the Physiotheraphy Phnom Penh Clinic. Early on she treated one of the Crown Academy boys and things kicked off from there. She attended a few Academy games, took over the rehabilitation of Kouch Sokumpheak and was then invited by head coach Sam Schweingruber, to get involved with the senior team. “I’m trying to make the players conscious about their body, and what to avoid. I can treat them with manual physiotheraphy, massage, medical taping or exercising. My goal is to get them back as soon as possible but without risk of more damage. Sokumpheak is a good example. He is coming back from a serious knee injury. Step by step he’s been doing more exercises to strengthen his muscle, coordination and stability. The aim is to get him back playing matches but also to avoid further injury.” She’s only too aware of what can happen if injuries are not treated correctly. “I am my own worst example. When I was 20 I twisted my ankle and damaged my ligaments. Because I couldn’t wait to play again, I didn’t get enough rest, I didn’t do my strengthening exercises properly and it took me a really long time to recover. Now I realize how stupid I was, I just wanted to play and failed to take good care of my ankle. My job now is to make sure that doesn’t happen to the Crown players, and of course, to my clients at the clinic.”

For now, Lidwina is enjoying her involvement with Cambodia’s most go-ahead and proactive football club. Always prepared to try something different, Crown have a recent history of Croatian, British and Swiss coaches, a British press officer, the country’s first-ever youth academy, its own artificial training facility, a fan and community engagement agenda and now its own foreign female physio. “We’d like to have a Cambodian physio working with me, specializing in sports injuries. Not only for now but for the future. Clubs and coaches need to understand what physiotheraphy is and that with physically fit players you can win competitions. If players keep going with small injuries, the body gets weaker and the risk of serious injury grows. Sportsmen are difficult patients. They want to recover as soon as possible and I have to stop them or push them, depending on the extent of the injury. Football is and will always be a man’s world, but nothing is impossible if you have a dream and you follow that dream.”
Lidwina (center wearing blue) adopts Khmer culture with poise and beauty

Cup memories

Crown's open-air changing room at the Army Stadium, where facilities leave a lot to be desired
Additional views from yesterday's 2nd cup success in 48 hours for Phnom Penh Crown. This time, a 1-0 win over Boeung Ket sent Crown through to the semi-finals of the Hun Sen Cup, where they will meet the Army on 8 Feb. Head coach Sam Schweingruber had this to say at the final whistle. "The whole team worked extremely hard today, we were well disciplined and we never, for the whole game, looked like we'd concede, restricting them to just a couple of chances... If we keep a clean sheet, hit them on the break, we are a very dangerous team. We have to aim for the title now, there are 4 teams left and we've beaten two of the strongest teams. I said at the team talk today, after beating the holders, our goal should be to win it; two more games, of course things have to go your way, get a bit of luck and obviously work hard, and the game versus Army will not be easy, but definitely a good chance to go on."
Crown skipper Khim Borey in discussion with the match referee Thong Chankethya

Samrith Seiha (1) focuses on the match ahead

Crown enter the field of play

The PPCFC team just before the handshakes

All smiles before the match begins

The two captains, who know each other very well as they are national team colleagues

Half-time instructions from coach Sam Schweingruber

Skipper Khim Borey nursing a sore ankle after the game

Coach Schweingruber interviewed by CNC's Sok Pheary