Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prince on the move

Justine, center, celebrating winning the 2010 C-League title with his teammates
One of the foreign players who made the biggest impact on Cambodia football in recent years is set to ply his considerable footballing talents in another country sometime soon. Uche Prince Justine, who is still just 19 years old, and who won the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the 2009 Cambodian League season (21 goals whilst with Spark FC) and who netted another 17 goals for his new team Phnom Penh Crown last term, has just completed a short spell in Thai football. He looks set to remain in Thailand though has irons in the fire elsewhere, but it looks like his time in Cambodia has come to an end. "I want to further my career whilst I am still young and I think I have seen it all in Cambodian football now," he said by email from his new home. "I kept my promise to Crown to stay and win the league championship and that's what I did." Nigerian-born Justine missed the championship-winning final over Preah Khan due to suspension but his 17 goals had him pushing the eventual Golden Boot winner Julius Ononiwu all the way. At the end of the C-League season last month, Justine took himself off to Thailand for a holiday and joined up with Mukdahan FC in the Thai Division 2 Regional League North Eastern Division and scored five goals in their final 4 matches. He'd previously played at Mukdahan in a mid-season competition in June when he was part of the PPC team that came top of a 4-team tournament. His powerful running and thunderous shooting, not forgetting his trademark celebration somersault, will be sorely missed in next season's C-League.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A second defeat

Cambodia's Kuoch Sokumpheak (9, blue) takes on the Vietnam defence
Cambodia's national team came unstuck against their Vietnamese U23 opponents for the second time in four days, losing this afternoon's friendly encounter at the Thong Nhat stadium, 3-0. Goals from Hoang Danh Ngoc and Hoang Van Binh in the 1st half and and Le Van Thang after the break did the damage. The Vietnam U23's are getting in shape for a cup competition involving six other countries next week and of course, gave the Cambodian U23's a lesson in last year's SEA Games, beating them 6-1, so the two friendly results don't exactly come as a surprise. However, the results don't matter as much as the team getting much needed match practice, putting the new coach's playing style, tactics and formation into action and allowing the coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, to get a good look at his squad under match conditions. We still have just over a month before the Cambodian squad returns from their training camp in Vietnam to head for Laos and the qualifying round-robin matches in the AFF Suzuki Cup against Laos, Timor Leste and Philippines.

Monday, September 20, 2010

PPCFC's elite football academy

Some of these Crown youngsters are eligible for the academy, if they are good enough
Phnom Penh Crown are streets ahead of any other professional team in Cambodia. Today's press conference to announce the first-ever residential football academy for young footballers proved exactly that. Trials in 17 locations (including most of the provinces) will take place during October to uncover the best talent the country's young football stars of the future have to offer. Aimed at 12 and 13 year olds, the 22 players that make the final cut will join Phnom Penh Crown on a full-time basis for two years, undergoing a tailored programme that will maximize their football potential and give them a private education as well. We are talking naturally-gifted players being coached every day to improve their technique and understanding of the game, at the club's own training ground in Tuol Kork. The programme they will follow is closely linked to Everton FC, renowned for their production line of talented youngsters who've gone onto play first-team football, through Crown's partners, Asia Pacific Football Academy in New Zealand. House parents will look after the youngster's welfare whilst they are away from home and the goal is to identify and nurture the cream of the country's youngsters, who will continue for another two years after their initial 2-year stint, with progress to the Crown first-team, and beyond, the eventual outcome. There has been nothing like this in Cambodian football before, this is ground-breaking development that is geared towards the overall improvement of Cambodia football. Most of the country's television and written media were present today, including all the tv channels such as Bayon, CTN, Seat, TV5, TV9, Apsara and so on at the press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel. Phnom Penh Crown are the current Cambodian League champions and they have a vision to improve Cambodian football in the future and today's announcement is the first step of many they will be undertaking towards realizing that dream.
Crown Casino boss Rithy Samnang, who is financing the elite football academy, reads from his notes
The top table at today's press conference included government and federation officials, as well as the main academy sponsor, Rithy Samnang and Crown youth coach Bouy Dary (right)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friendly defeat

Action from the Cambodia v Vietnam U23 game with Keo Sokngorn (10) involved
The first result to come out of the Cambodian national team's training camp inside Vietnam is a 2-0 defeat against the Vietnamese Under 23 side, earlier today at the Thanh Long stadium. The national team coach Lee Tae-Hoon has moved his team to Saigon from their original camp at HAGL in order to play some matches, as part of their preparation for the forthcoming Suzuki Cup qualifying games in Laos. The Vietnamese U23 side, who were beaten by Malaysia in the SEA Games final at the end of last year, are also preparing for a cup competition, the Thanh Long-Hanoi Cup which will involve U23 teams from Iran, Singapore, Malaysia, Kuwait, North Korea and Australia. The Vietnamese U23 coach is Phan Thanh Hung, who just led Hanoi T&T to the 2010 V-League championship. The Vietnamese goals in today's win were scored by Van Thang and skipper Huu Phuoc. Another friendly match between the two sides is scheduled for the Thong Nhat stadium on 21 September.
The Vietnam press (Thanh Nien News online) have spotlighted Cambodia's talented youngster Keo Sokngorn as having a Vietnamese mother and interest shown in him by two Vietnamese clubs,
Binh Duong and Can Tho, while Thai clubs are reportedly sniffing around too. Currently on contract with C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown, I would be very surprised if this isn't anything more than newspaper gossip.
Cambodia in red on the defensive against a rampaging Vietnam U23 team

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The draw for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, to be held jointly by Vietnam and Indonesia, was made today. The holders of the cup, Vietnam, who won it in 2008 by beating Thailand 3-2 on aggregate, have been drawn in the strongest group, Group B, alongside Singapore and Myanmar, together with the runners-up from the qualifying tournament in Laos at the back end of next month. In Group A, Thailand will face Indonesia and the SEA Games winners Malaysia, as well as the best of the qualifiers. Cambodia, under new coach Lee Tae-Hoon, will take part in the qualifying matches in Laos, meeting the hosts on 22 October, then Timor Leste two days later and finally Philippines on 26 October. 2 of the the 4 teams will progress to the finals.
The Suzuki Cup group matches will follow from 1-8 December, to be staged in Hanoi and Jakarta. After the group matches, the top two teams in each pool will progress to the two-leg semis to be staged home and away on 15/16 December and 18/19 December. The first leg of the final will be on December 26 with the final three days later.

The Phnom Penh Post broke the news today that the management team at Phnom Penh Crown, manager Makara Be and coach Apisit Im Amphai, have both parted company with the recently crowned 2010 Metfone C-League champions. They appear set to join 2nd Division clubs in Thailand, with the native Thai coach joining Buriram and the former Crown manager linking up with Mukdahan FC as their Marketing and PR boss. It signals the start of a completely new regime at Cambodia's premier club, who are due to announce on Monday, the start of a residential football academy for youngsters, the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crown look to the future

I think I'm right in saying that one of only two professional football clubs in Cambodia to have their own website is Phnom Penh Crown FC. And that's just for starters. Over the next few months, Crown are putting in place a series of unique steps that will take the club onto a higher plane as they make concerted efforts to elevate themselves and Cambodian football in general. They are already viewed as the Manchester United of Cambodian football. And this is something they will continue to aspire to in the future. Whilst they focus on their desire to be the best team in the Kingdom, continuing on from winning the Metfone C-League less than a month ago, and to strengthen their image in regional Asean football as well, they also recognise the importance of grooming the future stars of Cambodian football and next Monday will hold a press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel to announce the beginning of their PPCFC Elite Football Academy. I won't spoil the fun before the press conference itself, but this ground-breaking step forward for Cambodian football is a remarkable development which they believe will be a cornerstone of improving Cambodian football in the long-term. Watch this space for more on Crown's vision of the future. Link: website

Friday, September 10, 2010

All quiet on the footy front

It's all gone very quiet on the football front as the Cambodian national team set about getting themselves in shape for October's Suzuki Cup qualifying rounds in Laos under new South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon. It looks like they will move their training camp to Thanh Long in Saigon next week in order to play a couple of friendly games against the Vietnamese Olympic U23 side on 18th and 21st. Meanwhile, promotion to the Metfone C-League is top of the agenda in Battambang at the moment as teams battle it out in the Division AI play-offs. The two teams scheduled to earn the right to play in the C-League next term will be between the Commissariat Police (aka Ministry of Interior), Oddar Meanchey, Phouchung Neak and Rithy Sen from Kompong Chhnang. The two teams due to drop out are Wat Phnom and Chhma Khmao, after they propped up the rest of the 10-team C-League last season. The new league season is due to restart in April or May next year after the Hun Sen Cup competition takes place. Champions Phnom Penh Crown, who beat Preah Khan Reach 4-3 in the play-off final, are already in talks with a batch of new faces as they look to strengthen their vice-like grip on Cambodian football. Update: The Commissariat Police and Rithy Sen will join the C-League next season, after the Police triumphed 3-0 in the Division AI final.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On the touchline

Head national football coach, Lee Tae-Hoon
The 25-strong Cambodian national team squad are currently in training camp across the border in Vietnam, preparing for their important AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying matches in Laos towards the end of October. The coaching team that will support the squad during their month and a half in preparation, and who will select the final 20 players to make the trip to Laos, are shown here. Lee Tae-Hoon (39) is the head coach, recently arriving to take over the post vacated by Australian Scott O'Donell, and who has had two spells as assistant coach of the South Korean women's team and who was a midfielder with K-leaguers Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors for six seasons. His coaching credentials are unknown and the appointment was made at the behest of the Korean football federation, who will pay his salary. Alongside him are his two Cambodian assistant coaches, both 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, 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. The team's physio will be Hay Sakiry, who accompanied the national team to Laos for the SEA Games, whilst Vann Ly remains as team manager.
Assistant coach Oum Savong
Assistant coach Ieng Saknida
Goalkeeping coach Prak Sovanny
Physio Hay Sakiry