Monday, May 31, 2010

Press talk

Today's back page of the Phnom Penh Post has my Metfone C-League match reports from Saturday's games. Click here.

Top of the pile

Nuth Sinoun wears the number 10 shirt and that's how many goals he has to-date as the league's leading scorer
BBU, or Build Bright United to you and me, are top of the Metfone C-league. They are there courtesy of their latest win, a straightforward 4-1 success over bottom club Chhma Khmao, and will go into the mid-season break still on top if Naga fail to win on Wednesday. Yet coach Meas Sam Oeurn is down to earth about their season to-date and won't let success go to his head. He even talked about resting the league's top scorer Nuth Sinoun in the after-match press interview. Now just so that you know, Nuth Sinoun is now on 10 goals this season, one ahead of his nearest rival. He's a former Hello United, Royal Navy, Preah Khan Reach and national team striker. He's 25 years old but considered a veteran, so much so that his coach is talking of resting him. Incredible. Sinoun was on target again against Chhma Khmao with two goals. For his first, he strode through and finished with confidence a couple of minutes before the half-time break. And that was two minutes after Chhun Sothearath had chipped BBU ahead with a very neatly taken opener. For his 2nd, Sinoun, who surprisingly stayed on the pitch for the whole game instead of being rested, took an unselfish pass from Oum Chandara and sent a low drive into the far corner. Expertly taken I must say. That was a couple of minutes before the end and BBU sub Chan Sokunthina also scored after Chhma Khmao had registered a goal through Meak Chhordaravuth. But it was all too easy for the students of BBU, who with their lead at the top of the table have given their more-fancied rivals like Phnom Penh Crown and Naga something to ponder on.
BBU are the surprise C-League leaders as we approach the half-way point
Chhma Khmao are finding life very tough in their 1st season in the C-League and sit at the bottom of the standings

All noise no substance

Kirivong's mercurial striker In Vichheka, who netted 3 against Prek Pra
Sunday's C-League matches were noisy but predictable. The noise came mostly from the Prek Pra youngsters who banged their bottles and strained their high voices, whilst the results were as expected. In the first game, Prek Pra offered a bit of resistance until Julius Chukwumeka stabbed in a pass from In Vichheka on 20 minutes. He looked well offside but the assistant referees are a law unto themselves in the C-League and can't even recognise foul throws so there's no hope for technical offside decisions. In Vichheka scored two more before before the break, the 2nd being a tap-in after keeper Yok Ary juggled and dropped the ball onto his foot. Prek Pra suffered a set-back just four minutes after the restart. Sos Sanophy hauled down Vichheka in the box, received a straight red. Vichheka got up, grabbed the ball, plonked it on the spot and coolly lifted the penalty into the roof of the net for his hat-trick. He scored again minutes later but it was ruled out for offside, though I have my doubts. The 2nd half wasn't a classic but Kirivong did enough to cancel out Prek Pra and Chukwumeka scored a 2nd on 78 minutes to make it 5-0 but then fluffed an easier chance to score his hat-trick late on.
Kirivong gave Prek Pra a lesson in finishing, winning 5-nil
Prek Pra Keila brought their enthusiastic young fans with them but failed again

Naga hit the highs

Naga leap to the top of the table with their 3-1 win over Wat Phnom
It crept up without me noticing. I mean that Naga's 3-1 win over Wat Phnom on Saturday took them to the top of the C-League table, leapfrogging three teams to lead the standings by a point for a day, and if they beat Phnom Penh Crown in the final game of the 1st half of the season next Wednesday, they'll be back on top before the week-long rest. Naga dominated the game from the start, with Wat Phnom failing to register a shot on target in the 1st half. They took the lead on 24 minutes when Chin Chum's header sailed into the net though he looked yards offside to me. On 32 minutes Chum got goalside of the Wat Phnom defence and scored at the 2nd attempt. He should've got a 3rd but his curler hit the outside of the upright and he was replaced. The 2nd half was crap to be honest though Phlong Chanthou grabbed one back for Wat Phnom before Naga sub Tong Soto made sure of the victory with a close range effort in time added on. They may be top but Naga have yet to really impress this season. What will they be like when they really get going?
Wat Phnom's season just goes from bad to worse and they find themselves in a relegation dogfight with three other teams

No love lost

Preah Khan rounded off their 1st half of the season with an impressive 4-1 win over the Army
The Army boys will be gutted that they lost their final game of the first half of the C-League season. They'd done so well up til now, including that Hun Sen Cup final victory, so losing 4-1 to their Military Police arch-rivals, Preah Khan on Saturday will hurt. There was some blood and guts tackling at the start and the Army were cock-a-hoop to score the opening goal on 13 minutes, when Nov Soseila fizzed a shot through a crowd of legs. Samreth Seiha in the Army goal was in unbeatable form but suffered an elbow injury at half-time and had to be replaced. Sou Yaty took over and the normally reliable stopper spooned a free-kick to Suon Thuon for the equalizer 10 mins after the break. The game changed on 72 minutes. Red cards seem to follow referee Thong Chankethya around like a bad smell so it was no surprise when Khek Khemarin handled needlessly, got a 2nd yellow and the red, and PKR netted the penalty through Mr Cool, Sam El Nasa. Khim Borey had chances to get the Army back on level terms but failed before half-time sub Khuon Laboravy netted twice in the last 8 minutes. He's been on the bench in recent weeks but give him a chance and Laboravy usually comes up with the goods. This win will give PKR some much-needed confidence after an indifferent start whilst the Army need to pick up and start again when the league season kicks off after a week's break.
The Army in bouyant mood before the game, finished it with a whimper
Army skipper Khim Borey (7) asks referee Thong Chankethya to be excused before the kick-off

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Naga and BBU vie for top spot

Khuon Laboravy netted twice on his return to league action for Preah Khan
There was a shock in store for the Army in Saturday's opening Metfone C-League game against Preah Khan. They led with a 1st half goal by Nov Soseila and though both teams created chances, I didn't expect Preah Khan to win by such a comfortable margin. PKR were back in the game early in the 2nd half, they took advantage when the Army had a player sent off and Khuon Laboravy came back from the wilderness to score twice after his appearance as a substitute. The Army remain in 3rd but this 4-1 defeat by PKR was a disappointing way to end what was otherwise a great first half of the season for the military men. In the 2nd match, Naga had it all their own way for 80 minutes of their game against Wat Phnom. Their plucky opponents offered some late resistance but it wasn't enough and Naga ran out 3-1 winners to leapfrog into top spot in the C-League table. Chin Chum netted twice in the first half and that helped to give Naga one more point than BBU, who play Chhma Khmao today.
Sunday's C-League encounters saw Kirivong see off the plucky fight of Prek Pra Keila, winning 5-0 with In Vichheka netting a hat-trick and Julius Chukwumeka a brace. Prek Pra brought a noisy band of youthful supporters with them but it was the Kirivong faithful who were cheering at the end. As expected BBU took Chhma Khmao to the cleaners, winning 4-1 to regain top place in the league standings. Nuth Sinoun scored twice to send him to the top of the goalscorers chart with ten goals. More on the individual matches later.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Khmer language only

Star of the Week - Khim Borey
A couple of items in the Khmer language only Sports Today edition, which is included in the Khmer version of the Phnom Penh Post every Friday. Every week I select a Star of the Week from the previous week's football matches and it gets printed in Khmer language only. This week it was Khim Borey and the picture shows how it's presented each week, as part of a two page spotlight on the Metfone C-League. In addition, on the back page of Sports Today there was a whole page focused on recent developments regarding the departure of Scott O'Donell as coach of the Cambodia national team. It included comments from players and fans about the situation, for and against. I've only had a very rough translated summary so can't really comment on it, suffice to say that football fans will always have their views, and that's what makes football the fascinating sport that it is.
Have your say about recent developments, in Khmer language only

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Midweek fluff

This afternoon's solitary Metfone C-League match won't make too much impact on the league standings with Naga Corp catching up with one of the games they missed during their Burma adventures, as they face a dispirited Khemara Keila outfit who are going from bad to worse in recent weeks. These two teams finished as champions and runners-up at the end of last season in the Super 4 play-offs, when Naga won 2-1, but they couldn't be much further apart this time around. Naga, unbeaten in their half a dozen games, could go 3rd if they run riot against Khemara today, whilst the team in 7th spot are coming off the back of 4 straight defeats and are really struggling this campaign. I can't make the game as I'm at a work colleague's wedding party. Meanwhile Phnom Penh Crown arrive in Singapore today ready to face the French side Etoile on Friday, who are 2nd in the Singapore League having made quite a splash in their debut season. Interestingly, Crown have included Olisa Onyemerea in their squad. The big Nigerian striker was released by Preah Khan before the start of this season and looks likely to join Crown for the 2nd half of the campaign. Not on the team-sheet in Singapore is Oscar Mpoko.
Match result: As expected, in a pretty drab affair, Naga came out 2-0 winners, with a goal towards the end of each half from Chin Chum and Joseph Oyewole. Referee Tuy Vichheka managed his usual five yellow cards, and Naga stay in 4th spot. The best game of this coming weekend's fixtures is the first one on Saturday, where the Army meet Preah Khan, and I expect an Army win. A week from today Naga face Phnom Penh Crown in the final match of the 1st half of the C-League season.

Beggars belief

There's a story on the back page of today's Phnom Penh Post that effectively gives the Cambodian Football Federation's so-called response to remarks made by Scott O'Donell when I interviewed him recently regarding his decision not to stay in the job at the end of his contract, which finishes this month. In it, May Tola, the FFC spokesman implies that Scott didn't understand how the federation works and was unwilling to work around the complications of arranging friendly international matches. In essence, it's a face-saving piece from the FFC who are now looking to get a South Korean coach on the cheap, or failing that, a local coach. To be frank, it beggars belief. If the FFC were professional and passionate about the national team, they would've bust a gut to support a coach that clearly knows his stuff and had presented a plan of action for the 10 months leading up to crucial games in October. They have failed miserably in their duty to the national team and if the spokesman's thinking pans out, they may play a friendly or two in the month prior to the series of cruicial matches in October, that have World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifying as their goal. He also stated that there is no desperate pressure to get a new coach. If that is their idea of suitable preparation then there is absolutely no hope for Cambodian football in the international arena in the foreseeable future. They can make all the excuses they like about a 'crowded domestic programme' and 'problems with resource mobilization' but they are simply inept excuses that won't cut the mustard with anyone that has a brain. The Cambodian players and the Cambodian public deserve better.
The article here in the PPP is by H S Manjunath, an Indian sports journo who is in the country for a few months and doing some freelance work for the Post. He was reporting for them on the day that Wilson Mene died at the Olympic Stadium.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Press talk

The back page of today's Phnom Penh Post
Today's back page of the Phnom Penh Post carries my match reports from Sunday's Metfone C-League wins for the Army and league leaders BBU. Click here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Borey is a shining star

I promise you that the player with his face obscured by the ball is Khim Borey, the Army's number 7 and skipper. Photo nicksellsphotography
Each week as the regular press guy from Phnom Penh Post at the majority of the Metfone C-League games, I get to pick the STAR of the Week, who then gets a write-up and photo in the Friday Khmer Sports edition. I'm always pleased when a Khmer players stands out above the rest so I was only too happy to select Khim Borey as this week's star. Not only did he score a hat-trick in the Army's demolition of Chhma Khmao, he led from the front as well as dropping back into midfield to orchestrate his team's offense. He takes his captain's responsibilities seriously despite still being just 21 years old, and a Cambodian international for what seems like eons. I reckon he must've got his first cap when he was still in nappies (actually it was in 2007, when he was playing for both the country's youth and full national teams). He was the Golden Boot winner for most goals in 2008 but has suffered a bit with injuries since, so it's great to see him getting back to fitness and top form. Likeable guy, who is quite shy off the pitch, but one of Cambodia's best on it.
By way of further evidence, here is Khim Borey (white shirt, number 7) challenging for a high ball. Photo nicksellsphotography
Last but not least, perhaps one of the most unflattering photos of me, ever, captured by happy snapper Nick Sells at the Olympic Stadium yesterday. Photo nicksellsphotography

Radio whore

Someone called me a radio whore yesterday. Maybe I am. On Thursday BBC Radio 5 in the UK interviewed me about Bou Meng's new book. Today, Radio Australia and their Connect Asia program included part of an interview I did with Liam Cochrane about the pitfalls of a football career in Cambodia. You can read a transcript and hear more here.
The intro to the piece reads as follows:
The sudden death of a Nigerian soccer player during a game in Phnom Penh earlier this month has raised questions about foreign players who migrate to Cambodia in the hope of securing a football contract. Mostly Nigerian, they arrive with expectations of big money and the chance to be drafted into the more prestigious leagues in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. But for many, what they find is disappointment and hardship.
Radio Australia focuses on Asia and the Pacific region and regularly has news items from Cambodia and neighbouring countries. I did a few pieces for them in December last year on the SEA Games. I am available for more whoring (of the non-sexual variety of course) upon request.

Press talk

The back page of today's PPP
My match reports from the two Saturday C-League games are on the back page of today's Phnom Penh Post. Click here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ladies gloves

Naga's Meas Channa (7) with his long white ladies gloves. Photo: nicksellsphotography
Here's some pictures by Nick Sells from yesterday's games and something I noticed a few weeks ago in the Naga team. I saw skipper Sun Sovanrithy with what I could only describe as long white ladies gloves before a game and now it seems the fashion has caught on with three more Naga players Meas Channa, Teab Vatanak and Kim Chanbunrith. The finger mittens have gone but the white sleeves remain. Surely it would just be easier to get some long sleeved shirts wouldn't it lads?
The other photos show the moment where Preah Khan were reduced to 10 men in the 20th minute of their match against Phnom Penh Crown. Anthony Nzekwest, who's hiding behind Ouk Mic, tries to ignore referee Duong Socheat's red card after he pulled back Prince Justine in a run on goal. He'd been booked 9 minutes earlier so the referee had no choice but to give him his marching orders. Finally, how many more defeats can Khemara's owner Lah Salakhan take before he reviews the position of coach Solomon Demagudu, who took charge of the team at the start of the current season but has seen his outfit crash to 5 defeats in their 8 games played. The coach is currently taking his AFC C License coaching badge course after enjoying a less than successful stint with Phuchung Neak last term; they were relegated. Khemara were beaten into 2nd place by Naga in last season's championship but look a shadow of that team in recent weeks.
Referee Duong Socheat advises Preah Khan's Anthony Nzekwest of his early bath. Photo nicksellsphotography
Khemara coach Solomon Demagudu (green) watches the action with owner Lah Salakhan. Photo nicksellsphotography


Khim Borey's hat-trick for the Army helped to defeat the Black Cats 5-1
The scorelines from this afternoon's two Metfone C-league matches at Olympic Stadium were both 5-1 in favour of the Army and BBU and suggest two one-sided fixtures. But actually that wasn't the case with Chhma Khmao and Khemara putting up some dogged resistance but finally caving in at the end, leaving BBU to go back to the top of the league and the Army in third place.
The first match kicked off in the middle of a thunderstorm, with rain coming down in buckets, most of the umbrellas surrounding the pitch had blown away, as had one of the portable dug-outs. The downpour left puddles on the pitch surface and the rain carried on until half-time. The Army netted their first after 6 minutes and it looked like it was going to be a mauling, when Khim Borey finished off a neat move between Pum Tola and Sin Dalin. However, though Army had the best of the possession, the better chances fell to the Black Cats from Svay Rieng. Sok Kolamara chipped Army keeper Sou Yaty but saw his effort rebound off the post whilst Yaty had to be at his very best to keep out Mom Davy's penalty five minutes before the break. It was a superb stop at the foot of the post with a strong left hand from Yaty keeping his team in front.
With the game kicking off in a thunderstorm, the Army automatically line-up for a team photo with no photographers present
A look at the sky above Olympic just before the storm began
The Ministry of National Defense set about their task with purpose after the interval, in a game which saw both teams line-up with only Khmer players on show. Sin Dalin and Khim Borey hit the woodwork but the latter was in acres of space to nod in a cross to the far post by Pum Tola ten minutes into the 2nd half. With the Black Cats' keeper carried off, his replacement's first task was to pick the ball out of the net just past the hour when Sin Dalin volleyed in a Pum Tola cross from close range. Five minutes later Khim Borey registered his hat-trick, controlling another Tola pass on his chest and firing in a near post shot that the keeper failed to block. Centre-half Thong Oudom joined in the fun and games with a powerful header at a corner on 82 minutes before Sok Kolamara slalomed through three tackles and netted a neat finish past Yaty to give the Cats a small consolation, just before the end. To little, too late and the Army consolidated third place.
The BBU line-up that beat Khemara 5-1 to move back to the top. LtoR (back) Pich Chealy, Sinoun, Ogbni, Sothearath, Bun Hieng, Simay (front) Sam, Chandara, Putsethy, Sovannara, Veasna.
Despite some appalling recent form, Khemara were in the mood for their match against BBU and for 35 minutes gave as good as they got but two goals in three minutes killed them off and confined them to yet another heavy defeat. Build Bright weren't at their best early doors but with a bullet header from full-back Nhim Sovannara and a clever shot on the turn from Nuth Sinoun, they went in two goals ahead at the interval. 4 minutes in, Khemara sensed a possible comeback when stand-in striker Suon Makara netted but a minute later Nuth Sinoun scored again and the resistance was broken. Just another five minutes later and Prum Putsethy put it beyond doubt with a curler into the far post. Twelve minutes from time Oum Chandara cashed in on a Kun Kuon mishap, walloping the ball in from a yard out to give BBU a 5-1 finish and regain top spot in the table from Crown.
Plucky Khemara put up a fight but it wasn't good enough
The sun was out for the start of the 2nd match with Kuoch Sokumpheak leading out Khemara in red/white

Sunday blues

After yesterday's games, Phnom Penh Crown lead the Metfone C-League table by 2 points over BBU. It's a precarious position for Crown as the blue shirts of BBU, or maybe they'll play in white today, will have the opportunity to leapfrog over Crown if they beat Khemara this afternoon in the 4.30pm kick-off. And that's likely considering BBU's recent showings and Khemara's self destruct form of the last few weeks. For BBU to be in serious contention around the half-way stage of the season is a surprise to many, including me. They've got players like Nuth Sinoun and keeper Hem Simay playing out of their skin, skipper Prum Putsethy can conjure a goal out of nothing and playmaker Chhun Sothearath is anchoring midfield alongside the busy Chan Veasna. They aren't the most attractive footballing side in the league, but at the moment, they're the most effective, having only lost one game in seven. In the earlier kick-off, I expect the Army to steamroller Chhma Khmao and if they get stuck in early, it could be a cricket score.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday action

Naga coach Prak Sovannara reflects on his team's success after their return from Burma
As expected, there were wins this afternoon for Naga Corp, fresh from their Burmese adventures in the AFC President's Cup, and Phnom Penh Crown, who returned to top spot in the Metfone C-League. Naga beat Kirivong 2-1 in the first game today and just about deserved it. But their winner was handed to them on a plate by an outrageous dive by Teab Vatanak and gullible referee Sreng Haody. With 20 minutes on the clock in the 2nd half, Vatanak crumpled when confronted by Kirivong defender Bryan Edem and Haody couldn't run and point to the spot quick enough. Sun Sovanrithy stepped up and despatched the spot-kick to put Naga 2-1 ahead and that's how it stayed. They'd begun slowly and conceded the first goal after 8 minutes. Chan Darasokha clumsily brought down Un Sopheak and Julius Chukwumeka netted twice from the twice-taken penalty, the 2nd one counted. Within 5 minutes Joseph Oyewole had timed his run to perfection to nod in Meas Channa's pin-point center. Naga deserved a 2nd and got it on 36 minutes but a ridiculous decision by the linesman wiped out Chin Chum's header from another Channa cross. It looked an appalling decision from my seat in the grandstand. Both teams hit the woodwork late on, but it was Naga's day and they move into 4th spot.
The Naga Corp starting line-up front row adopt a very friendly pose
Kirivong look more business-like in their pre-match posture
Games between Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach are always eagerly-awaited and this one proved to be as enthralling as ever. Crown eventually wore down their tired opponents but it was touch and go until Prince Justine levelled the scoring just after the hour mark and then it was one-way traffic. Up until then, Preah Khan had led through a Chea Samnang goal on 8 minutes after he benefitted from a moment of madness in his own 6-yard box from Keo Sokngorn. Another moment of red mist saw Preah Khan's big stopper Anthony Nzekwest sent off after 20 minutes for two bookable offences. His first yellow was for talking, his 2nd was a pull on the arm of Prince Justine as he sped away. He had no complaints. Crown levelled six minutes before the break, or they thought they had. Sani Saidu poked the ball over the line after Ouk Mic had fumbled a Tieng Ting free-kick but the linesman thought otherwise, with another shocker of a decision.
The PPCrown line-up: LtoR (back) Tiny, Nwakuna, Rithy, Bunchhay, Sokngorn, Saidu (front) Justine, Sokly, Chea, Narong, Sothearith.
After 3 misses, the Prince redeemed himself with a wallop of a shot that screamed into the roof of the net for a dramatic equaliser accompanied by his trademark somersault on 64 minutes. Two more goals in the last ten minutes wrapped it up for Crown. Keo Sokngorn made up for his earlier error with a scorcher of a shot from 25 yards that left Mic rooted to the spot. Two minutes later Prince Justine naughtily tapped in a shot from Hong Ratana on the line and was lucky not to be flagged for offside, but got away with it for his 2nd and Crown's third. He should've made it three in time added on but was foiled at the end of a surging run by Mic's body. Crown return to the top pending Sunday's games and their trip overseas for the Singapore Cup on Wednesday when they face the French team Etoile two days later.
A perfect toss by referee Duong Socheat, who went onto issue 6 yellow cards and 1 red
2-goal Prince Justine and Crown Manager Makara Be face the tv cameras after the game

Thavrak signs up

Om Thavrak (left) and one of his biggest fans
One obvious face missing from the Naga Corp team that played in the AFC President's Cup in Burma last week was their skipper Om Thavrak. It appears that the new bosses in charge of Naga have decided that he is no longer part of their future plans and he's been told to find another club. As a current Cambodian international and one of the hardest men in the C-League that didn't present the no-nonsense, blood and guts centre half with any problem and he's been training with the Ministry of National Defense with a view to lining-up for them in the second half of the current C-League season. The rules state that he has to wait until the mid-season break to sign for a new club. He won the championship last year as Naga's skipper and his leadership qualities are obvious, and will be a massive asset to what is still a young and improving Army team. Certainly a case of the Army's gain and Naga's loss if you ask me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Press talk

Today's back page of the Phnom Penh Post is dedicated to the decision of Scott O'Donell not to seek a renewal of his contract as the coach of the Cambodian national football team. Such a shame. The story is online here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

O'Donell walks away from top job

Outgoing Cambodian national football coach Scott O'Donell
It's all change again at the head of Cambodia's national football team as coach Scott O'Donell announces he's leaving at the end of this month, after the end of his year-long contract. This exclusive breaking story will appear in Thursday's Phnom Penh Post. Read it here first.

Australian coach Scott O'Donell will not be renewing his contract with the Cambodian national football team and will officially leave his post at the end of this month. His 1-year contract that began on 1 June last year, and which heralded his second stint in charge of the nation's footballers, took in the BIDC Cup, which Cambodia hosted and won, and the SEA Games in Laos, where they lost three games and won the other.

Speaking exclusively to the Post, O'Donell, 43 next month, confirmed; "My contract is due to expire at the end of May and I gave a letter to the Football Federation last month stating that I didn't want to renew." When asked to expand on his decision, he confided; "It's pretty obvious that the Federation has different ideas to what I feel is in the best interests of the national team. I gave them a proposal for the national team's training programme in December last year and they don't agree with what I think is best for the team. There's no point in me staying in the job if we're not thinking along the same lines. I've got a good relationship with the President and the Vice-President and it's okay that they have different ideas, it's just that I strongly believed in what I proposed and that's not going to happen."

Looking back over the past year, O'Donell had this to say. "Obviously winning the BIDC Cup was a high, it was perfect preparation for the SEA Games, we got everyone in Phnom Penh behind the team, 35,000 people watched the final and produced a great atmosphere, but I think we lost a wonderful opportunity to build on that." He continued. "We went to the SEA Games, came back with some positives and then played one meaningless friendly against a Korean university team and then that's it. We lost a great opportunity to keep the crowd supporting the national team by not having done anything since that friendly in January."

He admitted, "it's been a rather frustrating last few months because I haven't been able to do what I wanted to do with the national team. I've said it since I first arrived here in 2005 that it's important for the team to be playing regular international games and getting international exposure for the players. That hasn't been the case. There are World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October and I don't think what is happening is in the best interests of the national team in respect of preparation for those tournaments."

Cambodian Football Federation deputy general-secretary May Tola confirmed that O'Donell's letter had been received and that the Federation were now considering their options. "We've made some informal moves towards the Korean Football Federation about bringing in a South Korean coach, but we are still open-minded whether Scott's replacement will be a foreigner or a Cambodian. We have a long-term relationship with Korea so its natural we see if they have any candidates," he stated.

Tola revealed that the Federation were planning a programme of international matches after the end of the Metfone C-League in September, just a month before they begin vital World Cup 2014 qualifying games and AFF Suzuki Cup matches. "It's difficult to plan international friendly games as the clubs and players are playing each weekend until September."

O'Donell offered up this view of his tenure. "I would like to think in my time here that I've improved the professionalism of the team and the players, in terms of preparation and training methods and I think there's been a slight overall improvement in the performance of the team. There's some good young players coming through, but at the end of the day, the coach, the team and the country is judged by their results and the fact is that we won one game and lost three in the SEA Games."

He continued. "We are still getting similar results because we're still doing similar preparation. It all comes down to the preparation and regular access to international games, regular exposure for the players to play international football. I've said it time and time again, the standard and quality of the local C-League is way below that of international football, so if players aren't playing international football regularly, they get dragged down to the standard of the local league and it's not what's required for international football. It's not just in Cambodia that we have these problems, but that's why the better teams in the region play regular international friendly matches to give their players the exposure. We can't keep on doing what we've been doing, we keep getting the same results, so we've got to change. And that's something I've been trying to make happen."

O'Donell, whose earlier spell in charge of Cambodia's national team lasted two and half years and began in July 2005 before a stint as director of coaching education with the Asian Football Confederation, is now considering his own future, with a couple of offers already on the table, though nothing has been confirmed. "My family and I will be here for the forseeable future and I will continue my television work in India and Singapore with ESPN. I'll be going to Mumbai in India for the duration of the World Cup to work for the Times Now channel, previewing and reviewing every game of the World Cup."

In a parting look at the future shape of Cambodian football, O'Donell identified three key areas that needed attention. "There's got to be a structured youth development programme in place so we have a conveyor belt of players coming into the system; coach education is vitally important, we have to continue educating our coaches and the Federation is working on that now, running courses last year and this; and finally, we have to have decent facilities for the players to train on. If we get those three things in place its a good start, but it's a long-term plan, there are no short cuts in the development of football."

He also spoke about the promising young players in the C-League today. "There's a few good young players coming through the national team right now and the Army are a good example to all. They stuck with their young players and though they didn't win anything at first, they are now reaping the fruits of their labours. They've stayed together, grown together and there would be more players from the Army than any other team, if I picked a national team line-up today, which wasn't the case two or three years ago."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wait for it

I will have some interesting news for you regarding the future of Cambodian football in a day or two. Can't spill the beans just yet but it will impact on the nation's fledgling football community, and not in a positive way. The Wednesday game this week is a bottom of the table clash between Prek Pra and Chhma Khmao. Both teams now have 3 points apiece and are on the crest of a wave following their tough baptism in the C-League this season. There's another two weeks of football before the first half of the C-League season comes to an end and the clubs take a short break. Don't forget we have the Super 4 play-offs again this season, so effectively the league campaign is just to determine the top four teams who'll then compete for the league championship title. I don't like the idea myself, as I believe a league title should be decided over the course of a whole season, not an end of season play-off dog-fight, though I must admit it brought some excitement to the back end of last year's season.
Update on Wednesday; Prek Pra came through the bottom of the table dog-fight with Chhma Khmao, as the victors wining 3-1, leaving the Black Cats rooted firmly at the foot of the C-League. Chhma Khmao took the lead through Meak Chhararavuth but 2 goals from Mat Hasan and one from Dennis Nwaizu sealed the win for Prek Pra.

Press talk

Today's inside back page with 3 match reports
Yesterday's PPP carried the story of Prek Pra's first victory of the season
Today's Phnom Penh Post carries three of my match reports from the weekend. Yesterday's edition carried the Prek Pra success story here.

Udom gets 6 months

Khemara's Sophal Udom is sidelined for the next 6 months, pending an appeal
I've just heard on the grapevine that Khemara striker Sophal Udom, who ran 50 metres to physically attack referee Sang Sopheak from behind, then scarpered off the pitch smartish, jumping the fence and quickly leaving the ground after a pal delivered his kit bag, in last Wednesday's C-League game against Wat Phnom, has been banned for six months for his inexcusable actions. And rightly so. No-one is above the law and assaulting the referee, whatever the provocation is totally unacceptable. The 22 year old is one of the best homegrown strikers in the C-League, and was on the verge of a national call-up last season, though he has a tendency to moan and groan at match officials and Khemara will certainly miss his presence, but an example must be sent out to deter any other would-be offenders. In some countries, such an attack would also incur a civil court action.
Referee Sang Sopheak was the victim of an unprovoked assault by Khemara's Sophal Udom. Photo Nick Sells

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hard fought affairs

Srey Veasna scored the opening goal for Phnom Penh Crown in today's game
This afternoon's Metfone C-League matches were both closely fought affairs, without the usual rush of goals that we've almost come to expect. The top of the table clash between Phnom Penh Crown and the Army finished as a predictable 1-1 draw with each team canceling out the other. In the 2nd game, it was much the same but Build Bright are on a roll this season and nudged out Preah Khan 2-1, for their 5th win in 7 games, to go to the top of the table for the 1st time. The Crown line-up had an unusual look with just one foreigner and top scorer Prince Justine keeping the bench warm, whilst the Army were at full strength. Justine's replacement Srey Veasna opened the scoring on 23 minutes but Samreth Seiha will be kicking himself for leaving his near post unguarded in the Army goal. 5 minutes before the break, Sin Dalin levelled when he rifled in a shot from 10 yards after Crown failed to deal with a Pheak Rady cross. The 2nd half was pretty even though Justine came on and could've won it, whilst Oum Kumpheak drilled a shot that went through the body of keeper Peng Bunchhay and rolled towards the goal-line, before the keeper recovered to spare his blushes. As usual referee Thong Chankethya kept his pencil sharpened with 7 yellow cards. Honours even at the top.
The Army (Ministry of National Defense) had to settle for a share of the points against Crown
Phnom Penh Crown, like Preah Khan, have stopped using the regulation jerseys supplied by the sponsors
In the BBU versus Preah Khan game, the first half came and went without troubling anyone, with the game mired in midfield obscurity. When PKR did attack they found Hem Simay in great shape again, showing that he's certainly back to the form that won him international caps in the past. The game's three goals came in the space of six minutes midway through the 2nd half. A debatable penalty was awarded for handball and Prum Putsethy netted, only for it to be retaken for encroachment. This time, Nuth Sinoun stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way. Three minutes later and Sinoun was on hand to fire home Putsethy's pull-back for BBU's second. With just 3 more minutes on the clock, PKR reduced the lead through their 16 year old protege Chan Vathanaka, who headed home after Simay had punched away a cross-shot from Sok Chanrasmey. PKR pushed for the equalizer but for once they found Sam El Nasa without his scoring boots on, as he fluffed three good chances in the final few minutes before the full-time whistle blew and BBU claimed the points, and top spot in the C-League with a 1 point advantage over Crown.
BBU registered their fifth win of the season against Preah Khan to go top of the table
Preah Khan fought hard but went down 2-1 against BBU