Thursday, June 30, 2011

Press snippets

David Booth, Crown's new coach, speaks to the press
At the press conference in the Crown Sports Bar to announce the arrival of David Booth as the new Phnom Penh Crown head coach this morning, the assembled media were given the opportunity to ask questions to the new man. Amongst his answers were the following comments;

What are your plans?
"I'm here to work hard and to try and bring as much success to the club in the short period I am here. I've not seen the players train yet, I've seen a few clips on YouTube, so I'll have to look at the players who are currently in the number 1 position in the league right now, assess them and see what we want to do as a club. For the 4 months I will be here, I want to gain as much success as I can, remain in 1st place and I'm sure the President, myself and the staff will come to an agreement if we need new players. I'm hoping I can improve the players we have here and the most important element is that I have a good working relationship with the players."
What's your playing formula? "Every coach has his own way of playing and I'm no different. It's important that we understand that the players and the club are half-way through their season and we're in 1st place, the players are in place already, they are doing well, and that I don't come in and disrupt and confuse anyone. I have come to join in rather than dictate terms. For me it's very important to get a good working relationship with the players and I have a lot to offer them with my experience."
How do you set up your teams? "I like my teams to play attractive attacking football and to win games, but to do that you must concede the least number of goals. If you can do that you will win games. If we don't give goals away, we will get chances to win. Once your team is organized defensively, it is easier to work on attacking options. So we must organize the defence first as the starting point.That's the key."
Commenting on a question about Khim Borey, the PPCFC player he took to Sisaket, David Booth's last club: "I saw him play 3 games in the Suzuki Cup. He scored a hat-trick against East Timor and teams are always looking for goalscoring strikers. I felt he had a lot to offer and it was important for him to play at a higher level. Of the Cambodian national team players, Borey is the most well-known around the region. He had one or two injuries whilst I was at Sisaket and I didn't stay there too long in the end."
What's the difference between Cambodia and other countries? "The difference between Cambodia and other nations is that the others started their development and programs a long time before Cambodia had their chance to begin and so they are ahead with their ability."
Booth will meet his new team for the first time tomorrow afternoon at their training headquarters in Tuol Kork, ahead of the resumption of the Metfone C-League on Saturday 9 July, when Crown face the bottom-club Rithysen. Not exactly a tough opening match for the new head coach if all goes to plan.
Crown's President Rithy Samnang and his new coach, David Booth
6 televisions stations joined the press conference as well as a handful of print media journalists
The Crown President and coach talk tactics before the press arrive
David Booth with the man he replaces, caretaker Academy coach Bouy Dary, who will assist Booth with 1st team duties as well

Booth in the hot seat

PPCFC's new Head Coach, David Booth
Phnom Penh Crown have appointed a new Head Coach for the remainder of the current season. As I wrote the official press release that was given to the media at the press conference this morning, I'll simply repeat it here. We had six television stations send their cameramen, so watch out for it on tonight's news, on CTN, Apsara, Bayon, TV5, TV3 and TV9. Anyway, here goes:

Phnom Penh Crown FC are very pleased to announce the appointment of David Booth as the club's Head Coach until the end of the current season. David, 62, is a widely-travelled British-born football coach who has been in charge of three different national teams - Brunei, Myanmar and Laos - and who has coached club teams in three continents and ten different countries. His enthusiasm for the game knows no bounds, having spent the past 20 years overseas, after he began his career as a tough-tackling defender with Barnsley and Grimsby Town in the English Football League in the 1960s and 1970s. A knee injury forced him to quit playing and he went onto manage English clubs Grimsby and Darlington before his first appointment overseas in Ghana in 1990.

Success with his team Goldfields in Ghana during his five years there was followed by a three year stint in charge of the Brunei national team, another spell in Ghana with Asante Kotoko and then three years as coach of the Myanmar national team, who he took to 3rd place in the SEA Games in 2001. More success followed in India with Mahindra United, in Vietnam with Khanh Hoa, in Thailand with BEC Tero Sasana, in the Maldives with Valencia FC and two more clubs in India, Mumbai FC and a return to Mahindra United, where he was voted Indian coach of the year in 2010. His third period in charge of a national team was a 7-month spell last year with Laos, who he guided through as AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying champions before moving into the Thailand Premier League with Sisaket at the start of 2011. He parted company with Sisaket in April and is now looking forward to the immediate future with Phnom Penh Crown FC, the reigning Cambodian League Champions and current league leaders. David will be in charge for the second half of the Metfone C-League season as well as Crown's forthcoming AFC President's Cup games that will take place in Chinese Taipei in September.

Phnom Penh Crown FC President, Rithy Samnang said; "We chose David because of his record of success and his well-established reputation in Asia. He has coached the national teams of Brunei, Myanmar and Laos and many other club teams too. He comes to us with a wealth of experience and a proven track record and we are fortunate to secure his services for the rest of the Metfone League season, as well as the important AFC President's Cup matches that lie ahead. These are exciting times for Phnom Penh Crown FC and we are very happy to have David join with us." Phnom Penh Crown FC would like to record its appreciation to Bouy Dary, who has been in charge of the first-team since the departure of former coach Bojan Hodak at the beginning of June and who will now revert back to his main duties as Head Coach of the club's successful Elite Football Academy, who recently returned from an international tournament in Singapore, as well as providing support for the new first-team coach.
More from the press conference later today.
PPCFC President Rithy Samnang and his new Head Coach, David Booth at today's press conference

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Basking in success

Cambodia line up for the national anthem before the kick-off
World Cup matches don't get much better than this. The Cambodian national team did exactly what their fans wanted them to do, they beat Laos 4-2 and they beat them with room to spare, though the tie is definitely not over and Cambodia have a tough task ahead of them to achieve qualification to the next round to face China. They may have a two-goal cushion but Laos won't role over as easily as they did in today's 2nd half in front of a baying home crowd in Vientiane on Sunday. Anyway, that's in the future, for the moment let's bask in the present with a look at this afternoon's game. Though I didn't agree with South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon's team selection policy, the side he put out today did a great job in recovering from an early set-back and going onto win with a 2nd half performance that had everyone on their feet in the packed stands at the Olympic Stadium. And if it hadn't rained, there would've been a lot more watching as well. I reckon the crowd was about 15,000 strong and they certainly got their money's worth. On a wet surface, Laos drew first blood on 10 minutes when Ouk Mic in the Cambodian goal was simply beaten by the pace of a stunning free-kick from 18 year old Manolom Phomsouvanh, who fired his 25-yard drive just over Mic's head and under the cross-bar. It was a tough pill to swallow for the usually reliable Mic, the Cambodian skipper. Three minutes later, Kouch Sokumpheak burst past a bevy of defenders into the box, only to see Khuon Laboravy snatch at the chance and fire wildly over. On the half-hour mark, it was Sokumpheak again causing problems for the visiting defence when he rounded Lao keeper Chintana Souksavath but found the angle too acute to lob into the net, his attempt sailing across the face of goal, only to see teammate Chin Chhoeurn do exactly the same from the other side. Four minutes later, Lee Tae-Hoon made a tactical switch, replacing Tum Saray with Sam El Nasa and the move would later pay rich dividends. On 38 minutes, that man Sokumpheak was in the thick of it again, latching onto Laboravy's pass but finding no way past Souksavath at the near post. The half-time whistle came with Cambodia continuing to apply pressure without reward, with Laos looking composed on the ball and passing their way around the Cambodian midfield.

Cambodia came out after the break with purpose and it took just seven minutes for the home side to send their fans into a frenzy with the equaliser. Sam El Nasa floated a pass to Laboravy on the left-hand side of the area and he tussled with two Laos defenders, came out on top and whacked his shot past Souksavath from eight yards out. Cambodia continued to press, Chhoeurn had a shot blocked by his own teammate El Nasa before the substitute sent the massive crowd into raptures on 58 minutes. Laboravy was inch perfect in his delivery through the middle and El Nasa took the ball in his stride and fired past Souksavath from the edge of the penalty box with calmness and precision. Cambodia were now in front but their lead lasted just two minutes. On the hour, Tieng Tiny gave away a free kick 22 yards out and the pocket-rocket Manolom Phomsouvanh stepped up to deliver his trademark dead-ball strike with such power that Ouk Mic had no chance as the ball arrowed into the far corner. Two exquisite free-kicks by the teenage Lao winger. Rather than feel sorry for themselves, Cambodia upped their game again and Sokumpheak had another near post shot blocked by the Lao stopper Souksavath, before he made no mistake thirty seconds later. With 68 minutes on the clock, Sokumpheak snuck behind the Laos defence, moving onto a Laboravy pass, composed himself and flicked his right-foot shot wide of the keeper and into the net for 3-2. The crowd were back on their feet and dancing for joy.

Both teams made changes, but Cambodia had enough in the tank to keep possession with Sokumpheak in his element, delivering neat and incisive passes whenever Cambodia eased out of their own half. With three minutes left, the Phnom Penh Crown striker looked to have sealed it when he headed in Phuong Soksana's cross but a linesman's flag was fluttering in the breeze and the crowd sat back down again. But only for a minute as Sokumpheak weaved his way to the bye-line, sent across an inch-perfect center which Sam El Nasa despatched from five yards out to put the icing on the cake and leave the Cambodian fans almost delirious with pleasure. It was a wonderful comeback for the home team that should fill them with confidence ahead of the away leg in Vientiane at the weekend. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon refused to pull out any individuals for praise at the after-match press conference, preferring instead to talk about the team as a whole, though it wouldn't take a genius to identify that Kouch Sokumpheak was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Olympic Stadium pitch this afternoon. To be honest I couldn't understand a word of what the South Korean coach said in his comments to the press and I was straining my ears to catch every word. Laos' Austrian coach Hans Peter Schaller blamed his team's defeat on individual mistakes, too many young players, missing six key players and; "we made it too easy for Cambodia in the 2nd half, after we controlled the first half. If we cannot beat Cambodia at home, we don't deserve anything." Roll on Sunday and more of the same please Cambodia.
Cambodia line-up: Mic, Rady, Pancharong (Raksmey 86), Tiny, Rithy, Sothearith, Sopanha, Chhoeurn (Soksana 82), Saray (El Nasa 34), Laboravy, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Vichet, Vichheka, Piseth, Dina, PM Udom, Narong, Souhana, Chan Vanno, Veasna.
The starting XI for Cambodia: Back Row LtoR: Rady, Sopanha, Tiny, Rithy, Laboravy, Mic. Front Row; Sothearith, Chhoeurn, Pancharong, Saray, Sokumpheak
Two of Cambodia's heroes, Crown teammates, Kouch Sokumpheak (10) and Tieng Tiny (4)
The Cambodian bench during the national anthems
The Laos starting XI will be looking for blood on Sunday
Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon expresses himself in the after-match press conference - though I didn't understand a word of it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Academy in pictures

The PPCFC Academy boys in Singapore. Back Row LtoR: Rozak, Chanpolin, Senteang, Sopheak, Savary, Barang. Front Row: Bunvuthy, Sodavid, Muslim, Neout, Chansopheak.
Families involved with the Singapore Cricket Club, who arranged the Singapore Soccer Sixes tournament for adults and youths last weekend, were the hosts for the Phnom Penh Crown Academy boys. So not only did they go overseas for the 1st time and play in a 6-a-side competition against other international teams but they also visited the zoo, Sentosa Island beach, had a coaching clinic with a former England striker, Andy Cole, and enjoyed a few days interaction with local families. After a busy afternoon on Friday when they played five games, they earned themselves 3rd place in the charity youth tournament with a play-off success on Sunday. All in all a fabulous time was had by the Academy youngsters. And Crown President Rithy Samnang was there to share in the boys' adventures.
The Academy boys celebrating the presentation of their 3rd place trophy
The youngsters pictured before one of the six matches
Celebrations from Pov Bunvuthy after another goal
The whole squad line up before their first match of the Singapore Sixes
Ken Chansopheak wheels away in delight after scoring a goal
Pov Bunvuthy (left) and Ken Chansopheak
The Academy boys appear on Singapore television
The 11 Academy boys and their coaches, Kao Kiry (left) and Bouy Dary (right)
A proud Yue Muslim with his medal and the 3rd place trophy
The boys and their host families with President Rithy Samnang at 2nd left

In high definition

The Academy youngsters in high definition or is it HDR whilst in Singapore
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters returned yesterday from their weekend trip to Singapore, where they finished 3rd in the Singapore Soccer Sixes Charity Youth tournament. I'll post more photos from their trip very soon, so here is a taster and this picture is shot in high definition (or it might be HDR), which gives a completely different slant on the 11 boys and their coaches who performed so well in Singapore.

Crown to unveil new coach

The wait is nearly over. Phnom Penh Crown are gearing up to announce their new head coach this coming Thursday morning at 11am. Tomorrow is World Cup day so the focus will be on the Olympic Stadium as Cambodia meet Laos in the 1st qualifying round, first leg of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and then the following day the spotlight will turn to local Metfone C-League leaders Crown and the announcement of their new coach, following the departure of their previous coach, Bojan Hodak at the start of this month to Chinese club Shandong Luneng. Mum's definitely the word until then. The local television and press will be assembled to meet the new head coach on Thursday and news of the appointment will be made on the club's website and facebook pages at the same time.

ASL in 2013?

Have you heard of the Asean Super League (ASL)? Initially mooted in 2007, the idea is to form a league of 12 to 16 of the best club sides in Southeast Asia, and though it's endorsed by the Asean Football Federation, the proposal still needs final approval from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. Recent uncertainty surrounding the football federations in Indonesia and Thailand, along with some resistance from member nations, means 2013 maybe the launch date for the competition, if it ever gets off the ground. According to sources, the ASL enjoys strong backing from Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei. But Vietnam are not keen. The season-long tournament would follow a home-and-away league format, with bigger countries like Malaysia and Indonesia entering two or three teams, while smaller nations will have a lone representative. Each team will be given an annual budget of about $2 million, and at least $1million has been set aside as prize money. Participating teams are likely to be existing clubs lifted from domestic leagues, but it is possible brand-new teams may be formed. Four foreign players per team would be allowed and the whole idea is to stoke regional rivalry, boost interest in the game and improve the standard of the national teams in the 11 countries involved. We may have t wait a little while longer to see Phnom Penh Crown in the ASL.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weak in the extreme

On Wednesday, the Cambodian national football team meet Laos at the Olympic Stadium in a 1st round FIFA World Cup qualifying match. It's the first of two legs and the winners will go onto meet China next month. This is the big one. It's the World Cup, the most important competition on the planet. It comes around once every 4 years. And if Cambodia can defeat Laos over two legs - the away game in Vientiane is on Sunday 3 July - they will play in China on 23 July and back in Phnom Penh on 28 July. That in itself is a big enough prize, to meet one of the world's super-powers on the international stage. A team lying 100 places above Cambodia in the World Rankings (China are in 77th spot). This is very important. Cambodia needs every ounce of talent as well as a dose of good luck to defeat Laos, who lie two places above Cambodia in the rankings, but to do it, Cambodia needs its best eleven on the pitch. So my gripe with Cambodia's South Korean head coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, is why hasn't he picked the best players that Cambodia has at it's disposal. Anyone with any knowledge of Cambodian football will tell you that at least half a dozen players, who are amongst the country's best, are not in his squad for Wednesday's game. Even if Cambodia win, and they should, as they have home advantage and the teams are closely matched, on paper at least, it will not hide the fact that the coach is taking a huge risk with Cambodia's international future. The worrying comments coming out of the national coaching team are that they are not particularly interested in progressing in the World Cup and are looking ahead towards the SEA Games later this year (and the BIDC Cup before that). Why on earth they cannot seek to progress on both fronts is something that really pains me, and should pain all right-minded Cambodian football fans. During the coach's tenure we've already failed to reach the final stages of the Suzuki Cup and the Challenge Cup competitions. To ignore the likes of Khim Borey, currently playing in the Thai Premier League, as well as Keo Sokngorn and Chan Rithy, also plying their trade in the same neighbouring country, as well as home-based players like Sun Sovannrithy, San Narith, Chan Chaya, Sou Yaty and Oum Kumpheak amongst others, is something that many fans simply don't understand. Instead, with eyes firmly set on the SEA Games, the 25-man squad picked for Wednesday's match includes players who may or may not be okay at U-21 level in the future but are simply not good enough at full international level right now. Add to that, just 4 players have been selected from the C-league's top two teams, Phnom Penh Crown and Naga, and they all come from Crown, whilst the preparation for the game has been weak in the extreme with just one passable friendly against the Malaysian Olympic squad. That quite simply is not good enough as preparation for the important task of World Cup qualification, it's effectively treating the competition, and the fans with contempt.
The Cambodian 25-man squad is as follows: Preah Khan Reach (8) - Ouk Mic, Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy, Khuon Laboravy, Tum Saray, Suon Veasna, Sam El Nasa, Prak Mony Udom; National Defense (5 ) - Oum Vichet, Pheak Rady, Soeung Chan Vanno, Phuong Soksana, Chin Chhoeurn; Phnom Penh Crown (4) - Tieng Tiny, Phoung Narong, Sun Sopanha, Kouch Sokumpheak; National Police (4) - Touch Pancharong, Say Piseth, Tith Dina; Kirivong (2) - In Vichhela, Sosa Nasiet; Prek Pra (2) - Mat Hasan, Sos Souhana.

Academy grab 3rd place

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy boys returned to the capital at lunchtime today, fresh from their first-ever overseas trip, and in the full glare of the television cameras from Bayon TV. The youngsters ended their involvement in the Singapore Soccer Sixes Youth Charity Tournament in 3rd place with a 2-0 win in Sunday's play-offs against Rumah Faith from Malaysia with two goals from Ken Chansopheak. It was an exciting weekend for the Academy squad of eleven players, who arrived in Singapore on Thursday evening, played five games on Friday, visited Singapore Zoo and Sentosa Island on Saturday, enjoyed a soccer clinic with ex Man Utd striker Andy Cole and then went onto grab 3rd place yesterday afternoon. Hectic but thoroughly enjoyable. The organizers reported that the boys gave a technical display of football well beyond their years that was the talking point of the weekend amongst the fans, which speaks volumes for the Academy boys and their coaches. The Academy got off to a flying start in Friday's matches, recording a 5-0 win over Darul Ihsan Boys from Singapore (Pov Bunvuthy, Soun Neout, Sath Rozak and two from Mat Savary) and a 4-0 success against Bangladesh's Street Children's Partners (Yue Muslim, En Sodavid and two from Soun Neout, pictured above). A shut-out against Youth Football Home from Thailand, going down 2-0 was a set-back and two more close matches, both ended in defeats for the Academy. They lost 2-1 to Rumah Faith (Malaysia) with Phoeurn Sopheak netting, and then went down 3-2 to the eventual competition winners, Bali Sports Foundation from Indonesia, with Sopheak and En Sodavid scoring for PPC. Their 2-0 revenge win over Rumah Faith on Sunday made sure of third place and a memorable end to their first taste of international football. More from the Academy boys later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


The spine of the Old Stadium pitch leave s a lot to be desired
The goalmouth minus the grass playing surface. It's an embarrassment.
Above are two pictures of the playing surface at the Old Stadium, which is now home to the Army. As you can see, grass in the goalmouth is at a premium, as it is throughout the central spine of the whole pitch. To expect professional players to play on this surface and to perform at a sufficiently high level is simply not on. It's impossible to play a passing game along the ground unless you spend all your time on the flanks. The federation should not allow any more C-League matches on this pitch unless it is fully grassed. It's a basic requirement that if you are playing your country's main league competition, then it should be on a suitable playing surface. The Old Stadium surface is not suitable. It's an embarrassment.
It was great to see Khim Borey at yesterday's game. He was in Phnom Penh for the weekend to renew his visa and his presence at the match gave his teammates a nice fillip. He's made a few appearances for his team, Sisaket in the Thai Premier League, but he hasn't been selected for the Cambodian national team to play Laos on Wednesday, so he will be heading back to NE Thailand tomorrow. He will return to Crown once his season-long loan ends in October.
Khim Borey, currently on loan at Sisaket, at yesterday's game
No changing rooms so the Crown players change in the grandstand. More embarrassment.
Prak Vanny gives Peng Bunchhay some pre-match practice...on grass.
Takahito Ota jumps high in pre-match warm-up with Kouch Sokumpheak
Kouch Sokumpheak heads this line of Crown players in red jerseys
The pre-match huddle. Every team does this nowadays.
Referee Khuon Virak and Police skipper Sophal Udom (white), both had impacts on the match
The Crown bench before kick-off, trying to ignore me
Both teams acknowledge the crowd at the end of the match

Taka settles nerves

Crown v Nat Police. Back Row LtoR: Dara, Ratana, Njoku, Obadin, Tiny, Bunchhay. Front Row: Ota, Narong, Sokumpheak, Chaya, Sothearith
Takahito Ota's goal after seven minutes was a great relief. For his teammates and the Phnom Penh Crown fans watching nervously in the grandstand at the Old Stadium. The first half against Naga Corp just a few days before was a nightmare that no-one wanted to go through again, so Taka's goal, struck with left-foot precision from the edge of the penalty area, calmed the nerves and allowed Crown to stroke the ball about, as well as they could on a surface that limited accurate passing to the flanks. With the pitch not helping either team's cause, there was a distinct lack of flowing football on display though it was Crown who dominated possession and created the better openings throughout the game. They restricted the Police to long-range shooting that never troubled Peng Bunchhay in the Crown goal. Before Taka stepped up to the mark, Kingsley Njoku received a pass out wide from Thul Sothearith and blasted high and wide. In a near identical move on seven minutes, Sothearith fed Chan Chaya on the left flank, he burst between two players to feed Taka twenty yards out and the Japanese recruit picked his spot with a left-foot drive that nestled in the bottom corner. It was a special moment for the newcomer who has already impressed with his non-stop bustling style, neat passing and willingness to push forward. With Kouch Sokumpheak playing in a withdrawn role, Crown were seeing a lot of the ball and Chaya was slow to pull the trigger allowing Touch Pancharong time to get a block in. Just before the half-hour mark, Kingsley Njoku powered his way past three defenders and as he shaped to shoot, he was floored by a tackle from behind by Say Piseth. It was a nailed-on penalty for the world to see, except the match referee Khuon Virak. Incredulously, he stood over Njoku and brandished a yellow card to the striker in what was perhaps the worst refereeing decision of the C-League season so far. It should have been a penalty and red card for Piseth.

Two tackles by Police full-back Ieng Tin, seven minutes apart, saw him depart for an early bath on 36 minutes. First he clattered into the back of Njoku and then scythed down Taka giving referee Virak no alternative but to show him a 2nd yellow and a red card. It merely added to the uphill battle faced by the Police. Just before the half-time break, Taka's corner was met on the volley by Sokumpheak but he was inches wide of the far post with his effort. A minute into the 2nd half and Sokumpheak went on a run down the Police left and fizzed in a wicked cross that Njoku got a touch to but Police keeper Hin Sarith kept out at the near post. Hong Ratana, getting a rare start for Crown, lept high at the far post to send a header across goal and just wide before stinging Sarith's hands with a low drive. On 70 minutes, Crown got the second goal their pressing deserved. Chaya fed Njoku who held the ball up before returning it to Chaya, and the busy striker buried his low drive into the far corner from the edge of the box. Game over. The last action of the match was an unsavory incident that has no place on a football pitch. With 11 minutes left on the clock, Police skipper Sophal Udom barged into the back of Odion Obadin and as the Crown defender led on the ground, he aimed a kick at his face but caught him in the chest, sparking a melee. Udom was in a rage and with fists up, he continued to look for a fight. Referee Virak quickly flashed a red card and Udom was hustled away. The federation must take severe action against Sophal Udom, who was banned about a year ago for attacking a referee. It's clear he hasn't learned his lesson and incidents of this nature in everyday life would usually involve criminal action against the perpetrator. I would not expect a 1-match ban and for the incident to be brushed under the carpet.

With Crown's 2-0 success, they return to the top of the Metfone C-League table, a point better off than 2nd-placed Naga Corp, as the competition enters a two-week mid-season break. Crown are still searching for a new head coach and will want someone in place before too long in readiness for the 2nd half of the league campaign and the final round of the AFC President's Cup in Chinese Taipei in September. Missing from yesterday's game were the suspended Sun Sovannrithy and San Narith. However on Friday, 1 day before the game, the federation advised the club that national team player Sun Sopanha, was also suspended. In their wisdom, they'd decided that as referee Kuong Ly had sent him from the bench during the 2nd half of the Naga match, that the decision merited a red card, and a suspension for yesterday's game. However, they failed to advise the club of their decision until the last minute. It wasn't bad enough that 4 Crown players had taken part in Thursday's meaningless national team game and were tired as a result - even though the coach had said they would not be considered - and then they lose their influential midfielder hours before the game.
Crown line-up: Bunchhay, Dara, Sothearith, Tiny, Obadin, Narong (Sophat 61), Ota, Chaya (H Pheng 86), Ratana (S Pheng 76), Njoku, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Visokra, Vanthan, Sovan, Virak, Sophanal, Rathanak, Sochivorn. Bookings: Narong, Njoku.
Thul Sothearith (3) leads out the Crown players in red jerseys
The National Police starting eleven. They finished with 9 players.
Time to reflect on a 2-0 success and sitting pretty at the top of the table

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crown back on top spot

Takahito Ota scored his 1st goal for Crown v Police in their 2-0 victory today
Phew!...Phnom Penh Crown did exactly what I hoped they would this afternoon. They showed glimpses of good form, kept their composure and jumped back to the top of the Metfone C-League with a 2-0 victory over the National Police, no thanks to a referee who was abysmal and a self-destructing Police team. Takahito Ota registered his first goal for Crown in the 7th minute to settle the nerves and Chan Chaya added a second on 70 minutes to give Crown the 3 points to take them back above Naga and into 1st place in time for the mid-season break. The Police did themselves no favours when they lost full-back Ieng Tin for a rash 2nd yellow card on 36 minutes and then their skipper, Sophal Udom showed once again why he is a danger to the opposition, but for all the wrong reasons. With ten minutes to go he barged into Odion Obadin and as the Crown defender was lying on the ground, Udom aimed a kick at his face but caught him in the chest, sparking a melee, with Udom, fists up, looking for a fight. The referee flashed the red card and Udom was shoved away, though the military police had by this time surrounded the Crown bench in a bizarre turn of events. Why they didn't escort Udom to a police cell awaiting a charge of battery or common assault is beyond me. It was Udom who was banned for six months a year ago after he attacked a referee from behind. The boy needs some serious treatment to work out his anger management. Crown had done enough, it wasn't a vintage performance by any means but in the circumstances it was enough and a job well done. More details from the match later.

Form and composure

In just a few hours we will see the whether Phnom Penh Crown can recover their form and composure when they meet the National Police Commissary in the final match of the 1st round of the Metfone C-League campaign before the mid-season break and the World Cup qualifiers. With the 0-4 defeat against Naga last Monday still fresh in the memory, Crown must show their mettle against a Police team who are certainly no-pushovers. In Sophal Udom and Tith Dina they have players who can turn the game, so Crown will have to guard against that, as well as put in the extra effort, as a win will take Crown back to the top of the C-League table before the two-week break. Coming so soon off the back of their unsuccessful Singapore Cup exploits, the first-half performance against Naga will be one that Crown must not repeat, as it not only cost them the game but also the services of San Narith and Sun Sovannrithy, who miss the match today through suspension. Composure in the face of adversity is something Crown must learn and learn quickly after the team reacted to the actions of the referee in Monday's match. Today's game will start at 3pm on the Old Stadium surface that simply isn't good enough for professional football. Despite their assertions that no Crown or Police players would take part in Thursday's national team friendly against a minor Vietnamese team, the national coach gave game time to no less than seven players likely to play today, four of them with Crown. It was the last thing the players needed after such a hectic first half of the season and just 48 hours before this afternoon's match. In my view it was an irresponsible act by the national team coach. We will see today what impact that decision has on the players' performance. Crown will be without caretaker coach Bouy Dary for the game, as he's in Singapore with the club's Academy boys and the team will be under the charge of team manager Vann Piseth and goalkeeping coach Prak Vanny.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A wide berth

The Cambodian national team meet Laos in a FIFA World Cup 1st qualifying match next Wednesday, less than a week away. That's right, the World Cup, the most important competition for any international team on the planet. But not in the eyes of the Cambodian football federation and their South Korean coach. In their preparation they have played the Malaysian U-23 Olympic team. Yes, you are not mistaken, one meaningless friendly. Today they play their second, even more meaningless practice match, against a team from one of the provinces in the Mekong Delta. Does it get any more piss-poor than this? The contempt for the country's football fans who would dearly love to see Cambodia win World Cup matches is shocking. Instead of pitting themselves against some of the region's international teams or even top quality club opposition in Thailand, Singapore or Vietnam, the federation have got a game against a Vietnamese 1st Division team. And in the run-up to the game, there is total confusion about the correct name of the opposition. I wouldn't be surprised if a local pub team turns up for the game, still pissed from the night before. It's that level of pathetic arrangements that are the hallmark of the federation. There has been confusion about whether it's the Kien Giang provinicial U-23 team, or Kien Giang FC (no such team exists) or Kienlongbank Kien Giang, who are the most likely opponents, as they are on a mid-season break from their Division 1 duties. Whoever it is, it's effectively scraping the barrel type preparation for the national team ahead of their World Cup double-header but it's in line with the thinking process of the South Korean Coach of the Cambodian team, Lee Tae-Hoon, who couldn't care less about the World Cup. He will tell anyone who asks him that his focus is on the SEA Games in November. Beating Laos over the home and away legs and going onto meet China in the World Cup doesn't interest him. Whatever the focus, a game against a minor team from the Mekong Delta isn't something that will get my juices flowing, so I'll give today's game a wide berth. Added to that, no Phnom Penh Crown players will be appearing either (so I was told). I've much more important things to do. I'll bring you the result later, but does anyone really care?
Well, at least the Cambodian national team didn't lose in their practice match against the visiting team from the Vietnamese 2nd tier of football from Kien Giang province. Tum Saray scored twice before the visitors got one back. Chin Chhoeurn netted just before the break and them Phuong Soksana and Sam El Nasa wrapped up a 5-1 win. A little bird tells me that the four Crown players in the national squad played a part in the game, when I was informed they would be rested ahead of our important league match on Saturday. I am very unhappy to hear this news. It flies in the face of all reason. This was a pointless match against minor opposition. If the players are injured or tired for Crown's important game in two days time, then the FFC and the national coach should be held accountable. I was hopping mad after Monday's performance, and now I'm seething again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The Crown team are made made to change into their playing kit in the main grandstand
To wrap up Monday's first-half debacle against Naga Corp by the Phnom Penh Crown team, here are a few photos taken before the kick-off at the Old Stadium. Not only was the pitch a disgrace but the players were forced to change in the grandstand, without access to even the most basic changing room and shower facilities. It really adds weight to my assertion that the football federation shows nothing but contempt for the football clubs under its jurisdiction. These are the top two professional clubs in Cambodia and their players are made to change in the grandstand and play on a pitch that would be a disgrace even by local football standards in the UK. If Cambodia ever wants to be taken seriously on the international football stage, these basics simply cannot be allowed to be repeated. I played Sunday morning parks' football in the UK for nearly thirty years and would've been appalled by the pitch surface and lack of changing facilities at that level, let alone at the top of the Cambodian football structure. Effectively, it made no difference to the result but that's not the point I am making. Cambodia has to get its act together and that starts at the football federation.
Bouy Dary, center, issues instructions to his Crown team
More instructions from the coach, this time on the pitch
Chan Chaya leaps high to head a ball in practice
Kouch Sokumpheak leads the short sprints
Last minute details from coach Bouy Dary to the Crown team
The two captains lead out their teams at the Old Stadium
Naga were pleased as punch with their 4-0 success on the day
Tieng Tiny (blue) and Om Thavrak (yellow) shake hands before the toss-up
The Crown bench. From right is BouyDary, Vann Piseth, Prak Vanny and Hao Socheat