Saturday, July 31, 2010


Why does this referee have to draw so much attention to himself? I get bored talking about him. I also get wrist-ache from writing down the aftermath of all his decisions.
Phnom Penh Crown and Build Bright United booked their places in the Metfone C-League play-offs with convincing wins this afternoon at Olympic Stadium. I'll bring you the full details a bit later as I'm off out to see the Cambodian Space Project play live at Equinox. Phnom Penh Crown inflicted Naga's first league defeat of the season, putting down their marker against the league leaders with a 4-0 win. Goals from Tieng Tiny, Hong Ratana and two for debut boy Olisa Onyemerea did the damage though referee Yien Kivatanak (pictured above) also chipped in with two red cards for Naga's Tiet Chandarasokha, who managed to stay on the pitch for just 21 minutes and goalkeeper Mak Theara. He also cautioned another 10 players. The guy is completely bonkers. In the 2nd game of the afternoon, accompanied by thunder and lightning, BBU trounced already-down Chhma Khmao 8-0. Nuth Sinoun and Chhun Sothearath both got a brace in the rout. More later.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ononiwu keeps the flag flying

Julius Ononiwu on the mark again to take his tally to 23 goals
Kirivong kept alive their slender hopes of making the Super 4 play-offs in the Metfone C-league season's climax with a 4-2 win over nearly doomed Wat Phnom this afternoon. Two goals apiece from the league's top marksman Julius Ononiwu, who took his tally to 23 goals, and Vietnamese speed-merchant Tran Cong Danh was enough to scuttle Wat Phnom, who netted 2nd half goals through Ry Phearoeun and Henry Asonibe. Kirivong still need to beat Prek Pra and hope that Preah Khan lose their final games against the Army and Phnom Penh Crown. Wat Phnom will lose their C-League status unless they can get something from their final match against the current league leaders Naga, whilst Prek Pra must lose their two games against Khemara and Kirivong.

The Metfone C-league enters its penultimate weekend of the regular season on Saturday when a real humdinger pairs leaders Naga against 2nd placed Phnom Penh Crown, who lie 7 points adrift. In the second match Saturday, BBU can guarantee their play-off spot with a win over already-relegated Chhma Khmao. On Sunday Preah Khan can also book their play-off place if they beat the Army, while Prek Pra might just save themselves with a favourable result against Khemara. This weekend promises to make the picture a lot clearer - personally I don't expect Kirivong to make the play-offs and I believe Prek Pra will retain their C-League spot. Let's see if I'm right.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chaly is missing

Nov Soseila - sitting out the last few months of the season
One of the players missing from my proposed squad of 20 has also been missing from the Army line-up for the last few months, despite being one of the most exciting ball-dribblers of his generation. I'm talking about Nov Soseila, who wowed the crowds last season with his thrilling wing play but suffered a a sprained ankle just before the SEA Games at the end of last year and has featured intermittently ever since. His non-appearance in the last few months was a mystery though it's now been revealed that he has stopped playing because of his disenchantment with his Army teammates. Nicknamed 'Chaly' after the small motor-scooter because of his small stature and speed down the flanks, Soseila was a great favourite of the crowd last season, both for his club side and the national team with his electrifying pace, his refusal to give up or be intimidated by bigger players and his obvious enjoyment of the game. He is prone to the odd temper tantrum but at 19 he has years ahead of him to channel his energies in the right direction. At the moment though, his fall-out with his Army teammates leaves him in the stands watching from afar.

Young man's game

Kim Chanbunrith of Naga Corp, still going strong at 31 years of age
I'm intrigued to find just two players over 30 years of age playing in this season's Metfone C-League competition. That's simply an amazing statistic, considering the age that some players now go on until in the Barclays Premier League for example. Yet whatever they put in the water in Cambodia, few players carry on at the top level past their mid to late 20s. The two 'old-timers' currently in the C-League both play for Naga Corp, the runaway league leaders. Maybe that says something for having experienced heads in your squad. They are Kim Chanbunrith, the former national team captain and utility player, and centre-half Neang Chenla. Both of them are 31 years old. The only other player who will be 30 later this year and currently playing is Srey Veasna, the Phnom Penh Crown striker. And that's it as far as I'm aware, out of the ten teams and 276 registered players, just 2 are over 30 years of age - a staggering fact.
Naga's other 31 year old, centre-half Neang Chenla

Monday, July 26, 2010

My top 20

Potential new face in the national squad, Khemara's Hou Sambo (8) alongside his club and national skipper Kuoch Sokumpheak (10)
To give the new Cambodia national team coach - South Korean Sejin Yeo is believed to be the main contender for the job - a headstart, here is my squad of twenty players, who in my opinion, having watched 90% of this season's C-League games, deserve first dibs under the new coaching regime. Most of the names will be familiar as the majority played in the national set-up under the last two coaches, Prak Sovannara and Scott O'Donell. There's no getting away from it, they are the best homegrown players in the C-League. I really wanted to include some new faces like Rim Bunhieng (BBU), Tes Sophat (Kirivong), Ek Vannak (Khemara), Suong Virak and Phuong Soksana (Army) but the established squad members simply couldn't be dislodged, based on form throughout the current season, which is just about to reach its climax.
I have included some fresh faces in my top twenty such as the Army's Thong Udom amongst the defenders. He's still just 18 and has a lot to learn but he's definitely one for the future. In midfield, Crown's Sun Sopanha has impressed this term, as has Khemara's livewire Hou Sambo, so they both get the nod, whilst in a dual role, the evergreen Sam El Nasa has played himself back into contention with a string of fine showings. Hard to believe he's only 26 years old as he's been around forever, though the oldest player in the squad is Pok Chanthan at 27. There's a four-way tie for the youngest, at 18, between Sou Yaty, Thong Udom, Oum Kumpheak and Keo Sokngorn. Also back in favour is Teab Vathanak, who is back to his goal-poaching best this season with 16 goals to-date.
So there you have it, no major shocks or surprises in my squad of 20, it pretty much picks itself apart from one or two slots that are up for grabs. If your own choices differ from mine, let me know as I'll be interested in your observations.
My squad with club and age in brackets:
Samreth Seiha (Army, 20), Sou Yaty (Army, 18).
Sun Sovanarithy (Naga, 23), Lay Raksmey (Preah Khan, 21), Tieng Tiny (PPCrown, 24), Sok Rithy (Preah Khan, 19), Pheak Rady (Army, 21), Thong Udom (Army, 18).
San Narith (Preah Khan, 23), Oum Kumpheak (Army, 18), Khuon Laboravy (Preah Khan, 21), Pok Chanthan (Naga, 27), Chhun Sothearath (BBU, 20), Hou Sambo (Khemara, 23), Sun Sopanha (PPCrown, 23).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (Khemara, 23), Khim Borey (Army, 20), Keo Sokngorn (PPCrown, 18), Sam El Nasa (Preah Khan, 26), Teab Vathanak (Naga, 25).
Phnom Penh Crown's influential midfield ace Sun Sopanha has performed well this season

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Frayed nerves

Sam El Nasa netted PKR's 2nd goal against BBU
A win for either team would've settled their nerves and almost guaranteed a place in the Super 4 play-offs, but with the final result, 2-2, both Preah Khan and BBU go into the final two matches nervously looking over their shoulder at fifth-placed Kirivong. And if Kirivong beat Wat Phnom on Wednesday, those nerves will get even more frayed. To be honest, Preah Khan should've beaten BBU by a country mile. They bossed most of this Metfone C-League match but didn't cash in on their chances and paid the price. Khuon Laboravy finished clinically on the half hour and missed a hat-trick of other opportunities in the game. Sam El Nasa, who'd skied an earlier penalty kick, extended their lead ten minutes after the break, with a neat end to a blistering run and cross from Lay Raksmey. Ten minutes later the jitters started. Oum Chandara's shot deflected off the back of Prum Putsethy's head and looped over Ouk Mic in the PKR goal, though Laboravy should've put the game beyond BBU's reach but missed a sitter moments later. With 3 extra minutes on the clock at the end of the game, referee Duong Socheat made a bad call to give BBU a last-gasp penalty. He viewed Moul Daravorn's tackle on Putsethy as a foul even though he won the ball and sub Nuth Sinoun stepped up to smash the spot-kick past Ouk Mic for an undeserved leveller. PKR now meet the Army and Crown, whilst BBU have to play Chhma Khmao and Khemara to determine whether they'll appear in the Super 4 play-offs in the season's finale. 1 win for either team will put them out of reach of Kirivong and into the Super 4.
Preah Khan Reach have yet to confirm their Super 4 play-off spot
One more win will give BBU their place in the Super 4 play-offs

It's a cruel game

Chhin Chhouern must've thought his goal would earn the Army maximum points
The Army will be asking themselves "when will our luck turn"
Football can be a cruel game. Just ask the players with the National Defense Ministry. They began the season like a train which then came off the rails and whatever they do, they can't seem to get back on track. Their game on Sunday against Phnom Penh Crown was a perfect example. They rode their luck early on, lost their goalkeeper and then scored in time added-on at the end of the first half. They held firm again before losing their centre-half to a red card by an inept referee and conceded an equaliser with just 3 minutes to go. The 1-1 draw was fair for the neutrals but for the Army players, they can't wait for the Metfone C-League season to come to a close. Chhin Chhouern scored for the Army with a scorcher of a goal a minute into additional time at the end of the first half, after Khim Borey had set him up. They'd already had to replace Samreth Seiha in goal on the half hour after he limped off with a leg injury, sustained in a collision with Keo Sokngorn. His replacement Sou Yaty kept his team in front with a double save a minute before the half-time whistle. The Army withstood some early Crown pressure in the 2nd half and looked to be heading for a surprise win when referee Yien Kivatanak stepped in on 67 minutes. Om Thavrak was given a poor pass by Yaty and made a last-ditch tackle to deny Sok Pheng but not in the eyes of the referee. As Thavrak lay prostrate on the ground nursing a knee injury, he flashed his red card. It was a poor decision as Thavrak clearly won the ball before catching Pheng, but that was little consolation for the Army centre-half as he left the pitch on a stretcher. It looked as though the Army would hold out against a toothless Crown side until a neat passing move gave Keo Sokngorn the equaliser with time running out. It was tough luck on the Army, who remain in sixth place, whilst Crown are in 2nd spot but seven points behind leaders Naga.
Phnom Penh Crown in their rather fetching blue and black strip
Om Thavrak is carried from the field after an undeserved red card
Another poor decision from referee Yien Kivatanak had a major impact on the result. At least he got the toss-up right.

Worst kept secret

Ieng Saknida, who's stepped up from the U13 and U14 teams to the national team coaching staff under the new South Korean coach
The word on the terraces is that the new coach of the Cambodian national team will be South Korean coach Sejin Yeo who has previously coached the South Korean Women's international side. In more recent times he's been an AFC match commissioner. We should hear more about his past once the appointment has been confirmed by the football federation. His Cambodian backroom team will be two former national team players, now AFC B and C-licence qualified coaches respectively, Oum Savong and Ieng Saknida, and goalkeeper coach Prak Sovanny. Savong played for the national team in the 1990s alongside Naga's coach Prak Sovannara, whilst Saknida has cut his coaching teeth in charge of the Cambodia national U13 and U14 teams after his playing career in midfield took him to Samart United, Hello United, Naga, Preah Khan and Khemara and a regular start in the national team. Prak Sovanny has been the goalkeeping coach under both the last two national coaches, Prak Sovannara and Scott O'Donell and does the same job with Phnom Penh Crown.
Postscript: The name of the new coach of the Cambodian national team is Lee Tae-Hoon, a 39-year-old former assistant coach of the South Korean women's team.

Danger man

Mak Theara of league leaders Naga Corp - a dangerous opponent
He did it again. Naga's 19 year old goalkeeper Mak Theara is a dangerous man in my book. He has a very nasty habit of collecting the ball with the intention of hurting an opponent, or he would say, protecting myself against an attacker. In the 2nd minute of yesterday's game, he came out feet first to catch the ball on the edge of his penalty area and caught Kirivon's Ouk Thun in the neck! The match referee Thong Chankethya deemed it a perfectly acceptable challenge. I do not. If it happened in a public street it would be classed as physical assault. It's not the first time that Mak Theara's challenges have left my blood boiling. One day soon he will seriously injure an opponent if he's not stopped. The next time I see his coach Prak Sovannara, I will raise my concerns as I have a few. It was earlier in the season that he fly-hacked Prak Mony Udom and before that it was Theara who scorpion-kicked an opponent in the chest. Put aside that a scorpion-kick, where he brings his feet behind his head and plants them in the chest of the attacker, is a remarkably agile move by the keeper, it's also incredibly dangerous for the forward on the receiving end. However in all three instances the match referee has failed to recognise that all of the challenges were dangerous and illegal and so Theara believes he can get away with it. Protecting goalkeepers is a modern blight on the game by referees but allowing Theara to get away with what he's doing, is even worse. Okay, I'll get down off my soap-box.

Naga do just enough, again

Man of the match, Naga's assured defender Samuel Oseika
Kirivong needed to beat Metfone C-League leaders Naga Saturday to give themselves a chance of making the Super 4 play-offs. They didn't manage it and it now looks a tall order for them to make it with just two games remaining and four points adrift of the 4th placed club Preah Khan. Meanwhile, Naga, again did just enough, a tune that they've been playing all season. They remain the only unbeaten team in the division, winning 12 of their sixteen matches and have now extended their lead to 8 points. It was a goal from an unlikely source that sealed their 1-0 win saturday. Pok Chanthan isn't known for his ruthless efficiency in front of goal, usually preferring a stopper's role in deep midfield. However, you could see his delight when he laced in an unstoppable drive from the edge of the box with just 3 minutes to go. Naga had won and deservedly so, though Kirivong could argue that a draw would've been fair. Meas Channa was the dangerman for much of the game with his crosses causing Kirivong keeper Keum Makara all sorts of problems. My man of the match was Naga's Samuel Oseika, who defended resolutely, kept the red-hot Julius Ononiwu a virtual spectator throughout and looks assured whenever he's on the ball. Both Ononiwu and Naga's Teab Vathanak had quiet games, which is unusual for the two top scorers in the C-League. Naga roll on towards the Super 4, whilst Kirivong will anxiously watch the other results, starting later today when Preah Khan and BBU meet.
Another match-winning performance from table toppers Naga. Scorer Pok Chanthan is in the middle of the front row (12).
Kirivong need to win their last 2 games and hope results go their way to get that elusive Super 4 slot

Prek Pra's lifeline

2 goals from Dennis Nwaizu confirmed Prek Pra's 3-1 win Chhma Khmao
Prek Pra Keila gave themselves a lifeline to remaining in the Metfone C-League Saturday with a 3-1 win over down and out Chhma Khmao and if results go with the formbook, they might just do it. They are now level on points with Wat Phnom but have a superior goal difference of ten. Both teams have two games left to play and will be expected to lose both of them, which could just leave Prek Pra hanging onto their C-League status at the end of their first roller-coaster season in the top flight. Their boisterous fans celebrated as though they were safe already. They're not but you could understand their delight. The match between the bottom two teams was pretty good. Nip and tuck throughout with Prek Pra doing enough to win it though referee Khuon Virak tried to make life difficult for the sides with two late red cards. It's just something he likes to do to keep himself busy. That's eight red cards from him since the mid-season break. Prek Pra drew first blood just after the half hour when Mat Hasan finished with accuracy, only for Chhmao Khmao's Kung Vichea to let fly from thirty yards with a stunning equaliser 3 minutes later. All square at the break. Prek Pra began the second half like a train and it took less than a minute for Dennis Nwaizu to impose himself, with another neat finish after Hasan's spurt into the box. A second yellow card for Prek Pra's dominant defender Philip Ali, with 19 minutes to go, will have given them the jitters but they held on and in the sixth minute of added-on time they netted a third. Chham Khmao's Lea Sopheap bundled over Feut Sulkiphly and as the last man he was given his marching orders, allowing Sot Sa Aun to slot in the resultant penalty. Referee Virak spotted encroachment so ordered a retake which saw Dennis Nwaizu promptly pick up the ball, put it on the spot and whack it against the foot of the post and in. 3-1 to Prek Pra, the players and fans celebrated as though it was a cup final and it might just turn out that that's exactly what it was.
Prek Pra may just have preserved their C-League status with the win over Chhma Khmao
Chhma Khmao have been relegated in their 1st season in the top flight

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Coaching Cambodia

Scott and his backroom team and substitutes line-up for the Cambodian national anthem
This article on former Cambodian football coach Scott O'Donell appeared in the July edition of the Fah Thai magazine, the in-flight mag for Bangkok Airways.

Coaching Cambodia - by Antony Sutton, Pictures by Andy Brouwer

When the Cambodian national football team lines up for Nokoreach – the national anthem – their Australian coach Scott O’Donell feels a pride that comes from having a strong, emotional bond to the country. Unlike many expatriates whose attachment to their temporary home is whimsical at best, O’Donell has a part of him that is as Khmer as the temples of Angkor and the waters of the Tonle Sap.

O’Donell’s football career started with a number of New South Wales State League teams where he made his mark as a rough and ready defender. From an early stage in his career he was open to plying his trade overseas and at 21 he was recommended to the Napier City Rovers team in New Zealand, where he spent a short time on loan. For an impressionable youth from Sydney, it was an exciting opportunity to play alongside Brian McAllister and Johnathon Gould; sportsmen who had played at the highest level in England.

Soon enough he found himself back in Australia as Raul Blanco – who he admits was “the best coach I played under” – saw enough potential to sign him for the National Soccer League (NSL) and O’Donell enjoyed several seasons in Sydney’s Western suburbs playing his part in one of the most attractive teams in the League. Football in Australia was very much a minority, part-time sport. O’Donell combined football with a teaching job and also coached the school team. With an eye to the future, he continued to work hard and slowly started acquiring his coaching badges.

His ambition for the game was far too great for him to remain in Australia and he was adamant to make it his profession. However, he wasn’t alone. Opportunities Down Under were limited and some of the biggest names of the time could be found playing in both Malaysia and Singapore. In 1994 he finally got the chance to join Kuala Lumpur. A few years down the line, he moved to Singapore. Living and working in the Lion City, he met a number of people who adopted Cambodian children and that got him, and his wife Margaret, contemplating over the idea. After making exhaustive enquiries in 1998, they decided to visit Cambodia for the first time and set in process the wheels for adopting themselves. They visited a number of orphanages in the city and met with relevant government departments before returning home victorious with an adopted daughter, Emma. Twelve months later Ellie was adopted and their Singapore home was filled with two bubbly toddlers.

In 2005 Scott returned to Cambodia. He had been coaching Geylang United in Singapore when the Cambodian Football Federation approached him and asked if he would like to take over their national team. “I have to say that I am very proud to be the national coach of the country where both of my daughters were born. I feel it is an honour,” he says. As for his plan for the team, O’Donell’s goals are realistic and long term. While most of the world are gearing up for the World Cup in South Africa, the coach is working hard to lead Cambodia on the road to the next World Cup, Brazil 2014, when they have their first qualifiers in October.

There is also the small matter of regional pride at stake in the ASEAN Football Federation Cup. Cambodia, one of the lower ranking nations in the grouping, will have to fight it out with East Timor, Brunei, Laos and the Philippines for the right to mix with regional powerhouses like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar, who have all previously secured the title. Work takes Scott all over the country scouting for young talent who can make the step up to the national team and one thing that stands out is the positive attitude of the young sportsmen. O’Donell marvels that while “We do not have the resources to prepare like most of our opposition, they have pride in playing for their country.”

As for his family, the O’Donells stay based in Singapore with constant trips to Cambodia and Christmases spent in Sydney. It’s a global lifestyle and one his daughters have adapted to. And while the two girls may not be “tossing a shrimp on the barbie” or dancing the ramvong in their spare time, they have their feet placed firmly in both cultures and the O’Donells are keen for that to continue.

Wat Phnom suffer

Wat Phnom could find themselves in a relegation dog-fight if Prek Pra can win on Saturday
The midweek C-League match yesterday ended in a thunderstorm that uprooted trees around the city, as well as the team dug-outs and advertising hoardings pitchside. Undeterred, Khemara beat Wat Phnom 2-0 with two first half goals from Chhun Kirivatharo and an own goal from Khieu Vibol. Referee Yien Kivatanak booked five players including all three of Wat Phnom's Nigerian contingent. This result leaves Wat Phnom nervously looking over their shoulder at the bottom of the C-League table. Prek Pra Keila are three points behind them, but with a game in hand and a better goal difference. Wat Phnom have two tough games to finish their campaign, against Kirivong and Naga, whilst Prek Pra also face Kirivong and Khemara, but this Saturday they meet the bottom-club Chhma Khmao, who are effectively relegated already. I think Prek Pra will pull off the great escape as only two teams get relegated from the C-League and my money is on Chhma Khmao.... and Wat Phnom. Prek Pra have the noisiest fans in the C-League and have endured a rollercoaster of a debut season in the league, but a win over Chhma Khmao on Saturday might just do the trick.
At the top of the table, the Saturday match-up between Naga and Kirivong is an intriguing game. Naga are 5 points clear at the top of the standings whilst Kirivong need a win to maintain their push for a Super 4 spot. With striker Julius Ononiwu in red-hot form, Kirivong will fancy their chances I'm sure, especially as Naga haven't set the world alight this season, basing their top spot on churning out results rather than putting their opponents to the sword. Having said that, I predict a draw. On Sunday, down-in-the-dumps Army will most likely lose out to Phnom Penh Crown, whilst the Preah Khan versus BBU match will be an important one to win for both sides. I think Preah Khan will just edge it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who's in and out?

The 20-man Cambodia U23 national team that saw action in the SEA Games in December 2009
After this weekend's games I'll be looking at the potential names that could feature in the next Cambodia national team squad for the forthcoming Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October. The new South Korean coach, still to be officially announced, who will be assisted by his new Cambodian backroom staff, will have a month and a half to get the players in tune with his tactics and style, after the current C-League campaign comes to a close and the Suzuki Cup matches kick-off in Laos. Some of the homegrown players who've shone in this season's C-league must come into the reckoning whilst others, who were in the last SEA Games squad in December but have had little matchtime since, will possibly fall from favour. In the latter category, exciting Army winger Nov Soseila has virtually disappeared off the face of the planet, whilst teammate Lorn Sotheara has also seen little pitch-time. Chan Chhaya and Touch Pancharong have seen little to no action at all, whilst Chan Dara has just made it into the Crown line-up in recent weeks, the same with Sok Rithy at Preah Khan, so they are lacking serious match practice. Meanwhile, a few faces have stood out in the C-League campaign this season and they include Kirivong's skipper Tes Sophat, Khemara's Hou Sambo, Crown's midfield general Sun Sopanha, BBU defender Rim Bunhieng and of course, Naga marksman Teab Vathanak, who was a regular in the national team until suffering a serious injury. More next week.

Classiest kids on the block

The Phnom Penh Crown team step out in their Kappa sports kit on Sunday
Hats off to Phnom Penh Crown. From the outside looking in, they appear to be the most professional of the C-league teams, but then again everyone believes they have the most money to spend. They are backed by Crown Hotel and Resorts who started up in 1999 on the Thai-Cambodian border at Poipet with the Golden Crown Casino and now have four casino's in operation. Even down to their kit, they look the classiest team on the block. In fact their kit is from the Italian kit supplier Kappa, who also sponsor Roma, Sampdoria, Valencia, Fulham and Portsmouth. The logo on the Kappa kit, known as the Omini, is a silhouette of a man and woman, sitting back to back in the nude. At the start of the season, all the teams had their playing strip supplied by the football federation but Crown ditched theirs after a few games in favour of their more fancy Kappa kit. The only other team in the C-League not wearing their federation-supplied kit are Preah Khan Reach.
Talking of Preah Khan Reach, they took time off from their C-league adventures to pop over to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to play the Malaysian U-21 team in a friendly and narrowly lost 4-3. Khuon Laboravy scored twice in the first half and teenage sub Chan Vathanaka also netted but the Malysians were just too strong for them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Korean in the frame

A new face will be on the bench for the Cambodian national team very soon, to replace Scott O'Donell (center). Photo: nicksellsphotography
I have it on good authority that the new Cambodian national football coach will be announced fairly shortly, certainly in good time before the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying tournament takes place in October. More on the Suzuki Cup later. The new man at the helm will definitely be from South Korea, or the Korea Republic as its recognised by FIFA. There's no name in the frame yet as the Cambodian football federation are waiting to hear from their Korean counterparts as to who they are putting forward as their chosen candidate. The agreement between the two countries also goes higher than the two federations and the appointment will reflect the growing friendship between the Cambodian and Korean governments. In addition, South Korea will be paying the new coach's wages. There is also a determination by the FFC to get the backroom staff in place before the new coach is appointed and that is also taking shape.
It won't be the first time that a South Korean has taken charge of the national team. Yoo Kee-Heung was hired as the coach in December 2007 as part of a sponsorship deal but he was fired seven months later after a string of poor results and the discovery that he wasn't suitably qualified. Homegrown Prak Sovannara, currently in charge of league leaders Naga Corp, was the next to take on the job for a year before Aussie Scott O'Donell returned for his second spell in June of last year. Scott decided not to stay longer than his one-year contract hence the need for a new coach. The Suzuki Cup qualifiers will be in Laos during October where Cambodia will battle alongside Laos, Philippines and Timor Leste for two spots in the finals, to be held in Indonesia and Vietnam in December. With the Metfone C-League due to come to a close at the end of August, the new national coach will have the month of September and half of October to prepare his squad for the qualifying matches. Two World Cup qualifiers were also originally due to take place in October, but have been put back to the middle of 2011. I await developments with interest.

Down but not out

2-goals from Leang Soksamnang helped Wat Phnom to a 3-3 draw on Sunday
Plucky Chhma Khmao will be relegated from the Metfone C-League this season, their first in the top flight. That's a certainty. They've won just 1 match all season and that was against their opponents on Sunday, Wat Phnom. It looked as though they could get their 2nd win in the return fixture yesterday after they'd drawn level on 76 minutes and then took the lead a minute later. However, they failed to change their tactics, continued to press forward and were made to pay the price when Wat Phnom levelled the scores six minutes later. The match ended all square at 3-3 leaving both teams frustrated with the point. Wat Phnom aren't clear of the relegation threat just yet and can still be caught by Prek Pra.
Wat Phnom opened the scoring in yesterday's game when Leang Soksamnang was the only player to ignore a linesman's waving flag, spotted the referee waving play on, and slotted the ball home on the half-hour. The goal stood despite the Black Cats' protestations. They equalised within two minutes when skipper Sok Kolamara kept his cool to finish well after showing the Wat Phnom defence a clean pair of heels. Ry Phearoeun gave Wat Phnom the half-time lead with a sidefoot finish on 37 minutes. The Black Cats fightback began with a penalty by Men Piseth and then a minute later Buth Chanra headed in a Kolamara cross to send the blue shirts of Chham Khmao into a celebratory frenzy. In a game littered with mistakes by both sides and lacking the creativity and finesse of Sunday's opening game, Wat Phnom clawed their way back for a point when Men Piseth failed to clear and Leang Soksamnang dived full length to head the ball across the line for a share of the points. Not the best football to be seen but entertaining nonetheless. And surprise, surprise, referee Khuon Virak kept his red card in his pocket, just flashing yellow on 4 occasions.
Chhma Khmao will be disappointed to draw after getting their noses in front late on
Wat Phnom earned themselves a 3-3 draw against the bottom club Chhma Khmao

Ononiwu wins it for Kiri

Kirivong scraped through with a 3-2 win though looked 2nd best for long periods against Crown. 2 goals from Julius Ononiwu (no 7, far right, front row) sealed their win.
Julius Ononiwu came alive in the last few minutes of the Kirivong versus Phnom Penh Crown game on Sunday and served up Crown's first defeat of this season's C-League campaign with two goals in a three-minute spell. His first was a beautifully executed chip over Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay from the corner of the penalty area and he followed that by dancing his way around three defenders in the area and coolly placing his shot wide of Bunchhay's despairing dive. That turned the game on its head after Crown had led 2-1 with just ten minutes to go. It also took Julius to 21 goals as he sets the pace for the Golden Boot award. His Nigerian compatriot and rival for the coveted top goalscorer prize, Uche Prince Justine, had a wonderful opportunity to level the scores two minutes into added-on time but his diving header went inches wide of the upright, summing up the Prince's unhappy 90 minutes. He'd earlier missed a far easier chance, just eight minutes after the break, when he rounded keeper Keum Makara but sent his shot the wrong side of the post when a simple tap-in was required. And to make his misery complete, Crown were awarded two penalties in the game but both times Keo Sokngorn stepped up to take them, leaving the Prince looking forlorn and stuck on 16 goals for the season. Sokngorn scored both times, the first after the keeper saved his initial spot-kick. The Prince was bundled over for the first penalty just two minutes before the interval, after Kirivong took the lead on the half-hour when Ononiwu headed on for Tran Cong Danh to lace his shot under Bunchhay's body. Crown then took the lead on 70 minutes when Hong Ratana was floored in the box and Sokngorn sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot. Ten minutes later the Prince laid on the perfect pass for Sokngorn to net his hat-trick but his sidefoot from five yards was tipped over the bar and within two minutes, Ononiwu had levelled, and then dramatically won the game for Kirivong. The Takeo-team are four points adrift of the fourth placed team, Preah Khan, who are on 31 points, a point behind Crown and BBU. Next week they face Naga and then two easy games, against Wat Phnom and Ptrek Pra, to try to clinch a Super 4 spot.
Crown have only themselves to blame for failing to beat Kirivong and went down to their 1st league defeat

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Julius remains at number 1

There was only one winner in the head-to-head confrontation between the top two goalscorers in the Metfone C-League this afternoon with Julius Ononiwu grabbing the glory as well as two sensational goals to give his team, Kirivong, a much needed 3-2 success in their late bid for a Super 4 spot. It was the 1st defeat of the season for Phnom Penh Crown and their top marksman Uche Prince Justine had what can only be described as a bad day at the office. He not only missed two glorious opportunities, he was twice overlooked as the penalty taker and he failed to add to his 16-goal tally for the season. Julius, his Nigerian compatriot, is now on 21 goals. In the 2nd match Sunday, bottom club Chhmar Khmao will be kicking themselves that they didn't record their 2nd win of the season against Wat Phnom. They stormed back to lead 3-2 as the game petered out but threw too many men forward and paid the price when Wat Phnom equalised. More on both games later.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When your luck is out

The Army (Ministry of National Defense) can't wait for the season to end
The Army must be hoping that the Metfone C-League season will end sooner than later. After a great start they have not only stuttered but literally fallen apart in the last couple of months. They haven't won for six matches, losing five of them and today they went down again when a draw would've been fairer. BBU meanwhile needed a win to boost their chances of a Super 4 slot, so they'll be cock-a-hoop with their 2-1 win. The only real action of the first half came in the final few moments when BBU keeper Hem Simay dislocated his shoulder in a clash with Om Thavrak and had to be replaced. Eight minutes after the break, the Army took the lead when Sin Dalin sent Khim Borey away and he kept his cool, rounding the keeper and slotting in his neat finish. Fifteen minutes later, Sophat Chansokunthina, making a rare start, turned on a sixpence and poked in the equaliser. Chances were fairly hard to come by so Khemara had to wait until the last minute to grab the victory and turn the game on its head. Nelson Oladiji got to the bye-line and his cross was rammed home by the timely arrival of sub Nuth Sinoun. BBU were mightily relieved, whilst the Army boys trudged off dejectedly, again. Referee Yien Kivatanak cautioned 4 players and no red cards in today's games.
The youthful BBU outfit maintained their Super 4 play-off spot, courtesy of a late winner
Khim Borey (7, white) leads out the Army with Prum Putsethy leading out BBU (blue)

Sting in the tail

Naga keep their eyes on the big prize with another win, 4-3 against Khemara. LtoR (back) Theara, Isa, Oyewole, Oseika, Chenla, Sovanrithy, (front) Vathanak, Chanbunrith, Sokha, Ratha, Chanthan.
Both of the Saturday Metfone C-League matches had a sting in the tail this afternoon. League leaders Naga led twice, went behind and then beat Khemara 4-3 with a Teab Vathanak goal ten minutes from the end. It was tough luck on Khemara who gave as good as they got. In the other game, BBU grabbed the 3 points with a goal in the last minute from substitute Nuth Sinoun after the Army had opened the scoring just after half-time. Both Naga and BBU stay on course for a top 4 finish.
The rains came as Naga kicked off against Khemara and took a 9th minute lead when Kop Isa rolled the ball in after a neat wall pass from Teab Vathanak. Within a couple of minutes, Kuoch Sokumpheak had whacked in the equaliser courtesy of the underside of the bar. Naga sub Meas Channa curled a free-kick to keeper Hok Visokra's near post and he could only help it in off the post to give Naga the half-time lead. Khemara came out gunning after the break and in less than a minute, Suon Makara levelled when he latched onto a long ball to guide his shot home, whilst Naga keeper Mak Theara remained rooted to his line. Just 4 minutes later, Sokumpheak put his team ahead for the 1st time from the penalty spot after a needless handball by Joseph Oyewole. They held out for another 13 minutes before Tiet Chandara Sokha ventured forward from full-back and poked in the equaliser to his obvious delight. Both sides had opportunities to take the lead and just as I was thinking that Teab Vathanak had been starved of chances to add to his 15-goal tally, he popped up to get his head in front of a defender from a quick Meas Channa corner and Naga had won it. They didn't deserve it but they have been winning these sorts of games all season, so why stop now. No red cards flashed by referee Thong Chankethya but he did dish out 4 yellows.
Khemara lost again in their topsy-turvy season
Referee Thong Chankethya amuses himself and no-one else at the toss-up, with the dark clouds carrying rain closing in. The umbrella in the photo had been uprooted by the wind and was making its way across the pitch.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking ahead

With most teams having just 4 games to play in the regular season, before the top 4 placed sides then battle it out in the Super 4 play-off to decide the destination of the Metfone C-League championship, the juiciest encounter this weekend looks like the Phnom Penh Crown versus Kirivong match-up on Sunday. It pits the league's top two goalscorers Prince Justine (Crown) and Julius Ononiwu (Kirivong) against each other. The two marksmen are both Nigerian by birth, both hail from the same province and are good friends. But Kirivong need the victory if they are to have any chance of making the top 4 places come the season's end, whilst Crown are adamant that they will win the title this season. Something has to give. Sunday's other game sees Wat Phnom taking on relegation certainties Chhma Khmao at 4pm. Saturday's matches should go according to form. In the opening game leaders Naga are likely to inflict defeat on Khemara, whilst BBU should be too strong for an Army team that have been so disappointing over the last couple of months. The top 4 placed teams look certain to be Crown, Naga, Preah Khan and BBU unless Kirivong can upset the apple cart.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

PKR move into third spot

PKR's 16-year-old protege Chan Vathanaka
As expected, Preah Khan Reach had little trouble in overpowering relegation certainties Prek Pra Keila in yesterday's solitary Metfone C-League game at Olympic Stadium. It moved them above BBU into third spot and cemented their push for a Super 4 play-off slot come the end of the season. They certainly haven't been as dominant in recent weeks as they'd like but they have continued to churn out results and two more goals from Khuon Laboravy, to take him to 13 for the campaign, ensured they took the honours in this game. Laboravy nodded in the first though Prek Pra levelled on half-time through Feut Soulkiphly. PKR's bright young hope of the future, 16-year-old Chan Vathanaka netted from close range in the second half with Laboravy rounding it off late on. It's looking more and more likely that the 4 teams to contest the Super 4 will be Naga, Phnom Penh Crown, PKR and BBU, with Kirivong an outside bet if they can finish the season on a winning streak and the others have a hiccup.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Down to the wire

Uche Prince Justine will be hoping to celebrate the Golden Boot award if he can overcome his two main rivals for the top scorer's award. Photo nicksellsphotography
It looks like a three-way battle for the top goalscorer's Golden Boot award in the Metfone C-league this season. Last year's winner Uche Prince Justine is in the hunt again and currently has 16 goals to his credit. He was back on the scoreboard at the weekend with two goals after a barren couple of games and a dent in his confidence, which he admitted to. You could see the relief on his face after he netted twice against BBU. His team, Phnom Penh Crown meet Kirivong next Sunday, when Justine will come up against his main rival for this season's Golden Boot, Julius Ononiwu, who's sitting at the top of the rankings on 19 goals. Julius has been a proven goalscorer over the last three seasons with the Takeo-based team and just so happens to come from the same state in Nigeria as Justine. The two goalscorers are friends off the pitch but there will be no quarter given on the field when they meet next weekend. Julius is in the driving seat with three goals in his favour and after meeting Crown, Kirivong face Naga, Wat Phnom and Prek Pra, so on paper Julius has two easy games to finish the season to bolster his account. Crown meet the Army, Naga and Preah Khan, so Justine will have his work cut out to pull back that 3-goal deficit, though Crown are certain to make the Super 4 stage, which will give Justine two extra games, while Kirivong are not yet guaranteed those extra matches. In addition, Teab Vathanak from Naga is on 15 goals and should not be ruled out of making a bid for the Golden Boot title. More of a goal-poacher than his other two rivals, Vathanak is the leading Cambodian striker in this season's competition and has matches against Khemara, Kirivong, Crown and Wat Phnom, as well as two Super 4 games, to add to his impressive tally. It looks like the destination of the Golden Boot award will come down to the wire.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Goal-less - at last

"Look lads, if we get a goal-less draw that'll put the bookies in a real spin." The Army have their group hug before their game against Prek Pra.
It had to happen. It took 70 matches for it to appear on the scoreboard but it has finally arrived. The first goal-less Metfone C-League match of the season. National Ministry of Defense 0 - 0 Prek Pra Keila. And the game lived up to the scoreline with very little goalmouth action and both teams struggling to show any sort of form. At least it brought to an end the 5-game losing streak of the Army boys but its clear their confidence is at rock-bottom. Earlier in the season they would've rolled over Prek Pra with ease, they won the corresponding fixture 4-2 in May, but this afternoon it was touch and go and at times Prek Pra, still looking candidates for relegation, could've snatched it. They didn't and to be honest, neither team deserved to win. It was that sort of game. In the first game of the afternoon, Wat Phnom gave Preah Khan Reach a scare by taking an early lead through Phlong Chanthou when Sar Sophea in the PKR goal made a complete hash of his punch out. Khuon Laboravy, restored to to the PKR attack, steered in a header just before the break and then five minutes after the restart, set up Sok Chanrasmey to put PKR in the lead. Laboravy and Prak Mony Udom hit the woodwork and both missed absolute guilt-edged sitters as well as PKR spurned chance after chance. They looked like they would pay dearly when Ry Phearoeun finished coolly with seven minutes to go to bring Wat Phnom back to 2-2. However, in the first minute of added-on time, substitute Ande Apollo raced onto San Narith's long ball, got there before the keeper and lobbed in the winner. They deserved it but PKR made hard work of the three points and stay in 4th place.
Prek Pra were pleased as punch with their point against the Army
The Army managed to halt their run of defeats with the first 0-0 draw in the C-League this season
Preah Khan registered a 3-2 success with a late late winner
Wat Phnom will feel a little aggrieved to lose to a goal in time added on

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Julius is up to 19

Golden Boot nominee with 19 goals so far this season, Julius Ononiwu
Another goal-machine grabbed the headlines in the day's second game with Julius Ononiwu continuing his rich vein of form with another brace to take his tally for the season to 19 goals, as Kirivong completed the double over Khemara, winning 3-1. Kirivong are edging closer to making a late challenge for a C-League Super 4 spot and if Ononiwu can maintain his sharpness in front of goal, they might just make it. I felt sorry for Khemara in this game. They gave it their all and didn't deserve to go behind, fielding a team that had two out with suspension and Suon Makara under the weather and coming off after 35 minutes. Kirivong took a 7th minute lead when In Vichheka jinked his way into the box and squeezed a shot in from a very tight angle. They doubled that on 58 minutes, again against the run of play, when Tran Cong Danh dazzled the opposition to set up Julius Ononiwu with the easiest of tap-ins. Kuoch Sokumpheak headed one in to give Khemara's noisy fans something to ponder but within 2 minutes Kirivong netted a third and the game was dead and buried. Ononiwu took the ball off the toe of Oun Sopheak to fire in from the edge of the box but the crowd were adamant that referee Khuon Ly missed a handball in the build-up, and they didn't let him forget it. So in return, 2 minutes later, he flashed a straight red at Khemara's San Nideth for a mis-timed tackle just to give them something else to moan about, and they duly obliged. Kirivong ran down the clock and won 3-1, maintaining their fine run, though next week they face Phnom Penh Crown, so something will have to give. There's no let-up for Khemara next week, as they face leaders Naga.
Kirivong looking mean and hungry before their 3-1 success on Saturday
Khemara came second again, but at least they put up a good fight