Friday, December 30, 2011

More domestic friendlies

Lee Tae-Hoon's preferred build-up towards taking his Cambodian U-21 team (plus 5 overage players) to the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei between 25 Feb-5 March begins in earnest this afternoon when his squad take on Preah Khan Reach at the Olympic Stadium. It's the usual formula for Lee, games against C-League teams, as he did before the SEA Games, rather than pushing the boat out and getting some really tough opposition over here to test his squad against. Essentially, the cheap and cheerful alternative. Lee has lined-up a series of friendly matches, starting with PKR today and then games against newcomers Boeung Ket (4 Jan) and Naga (6 Jan) at the national football center at Cheng Meng, before meeting BBU at Olympic on 10 Jan. All the while, this is taking the players away from their domestic clubs, who are smack bang in the middle of their pre-season preparation. The timing is pretty abysmal. Boeung Ket for example are due to open up their Hun Sen Cup qualifying games on 7 Jan. The tournament itself, for Asean U-21 teams, is also geared to interrupt the flow of the pre-season Hun Sen Cup competition latter stages as well. Let's hope the federation are not expecting clubs to play without their Brunei-bound players.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fabio tops the bill

Fabio Cannavaro with his most prized possession
It's been confirmed. Fabio Cannavaro, he of the short height and always willing to take his shirt off to show his handsome torso, as well as being the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year and Italy's World Cup-winning captain in that same year, will be popping over to Phnom Penh for a couple of nights (8th and 9th January) to show his face, promote Cambodian football and sports, make a few personal appearances (probably in the high-class fashion boutiques), and generally spread goodwill and his winning smile to all and sundry. Lots of television and media photocalls no doubt, a gala dinner perhaps and of course some time on the coaching field, most likely at Olympic Stadium, passing on the skills for which he was so blessed. Certainly not one of the tallest defenders around, his desire to win, his anticipation and his single-mindedness were his key attributes that made him one of the very best defenders on the planet in the last 20 years. He's certainly the biggest name from world football to ever grace these shores and will be warmly welcomed. He played in the teams of Parma, Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, won the European Player of the Year award, a bagful of domestic league and cup titles before finally calling it a day last year due to a persistent knee problem. He also happens to be a handsome devil (so my lady friends tell me) and won the accolade as the world's sexiest footballer on a number of occasions. Welcome to Phnom Penh Fabio.

Time for chat

I caught an hour long television show tonight from the PPCTV channel, in Khmer language, which they billed as Internet Sport Talk Show for PPCTVSport. I believe the show has been running for a few weeks already and for much of the show they talked about football, both local and international. Other sports were shown on signs behind the two presenters but football was all they discussed. In one segment, they showed an online copy of the Phnom Penh Post and proceeded to read out loud the whole report, on the Cambodian national team, word for word. They also showed photographs of international players from other countries, displayed on their own facebook page and discussed potential tranfers and suchlike. An hour of football talk is certainly what the Khmer football-loving public want but I think they need to be a lot more innovative about their content, rather than reading verbatim from an online newspaper. I know Rome wasn't built in a day, so I welcome the show, but there's certainly lots of room to improve. Teach me to speak Khmer and I'll jump at the chance to take part as a pundit. If Shebby Singh can get away with it, anyone can. The Thais have what seems like almost continuous football chat shows, though most of it covers the Barclays Premier. I'd like the Khmer channels to be much more homegrown-focused, but without losing an element of international coverage of the big stories as well. The more coverage of the Cambodian League the better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lesson learnt

Khim Borey (yellow bib) is inches wide with this effort against AEU this afternoon
In this afternoon's practice match at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh Crown beat the students of the Asia Euro University 4-1, after it was tied at 1-1 at the half-time break. Crown used 23 players during the match in order to give their trialists a taste of the action. Sok Pheng opened the scoring after just five minutes with a simple tap-in and then Mak Theara, in the AEU goal, pulled off one of a few good saves to deny Kouch Sokumpheak. AEU equalised on 11 minutes with an effort that looked suspiciously offside but was ruled good by the match officials. Khim Borey, pushing forward from midfield, missed a couple of guilt-edged opportunities and then Theara pulled off another great stop to deny Sok Pheng before the break. In the 2nd half, Crown rang the changes and two goals were scored by one of the club's trialists, on 60 and 70 minutes, both of the goals were neat finishes. Hong Pheng, fresh from his recent run-out in training for the Cambodian U-21 squad, out-fought a defender and lashed in a 15-yard effort on 72 minutes to complete the scoreline. In the starting line-up for Crown, only five players were with the club last season (Dara, Tiny, Sok Pheng, Borey, Sokumpheak), and another six from last term joined the fray in the 2nd half (Sovan, Sophanal, Vanthan, Hong Pheng, Rathanak, Sochivorn). The remainder, amongst the 23 players used, were all new additions or trialists. The club will announce its new signings at a pre-season press conference next month.
Hong Pheng (yellow bib) takes evasive action as the AEU keeper clears

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Examination time

Phnom Penh Crown's first-team squad, currently being re-shaped after their recent upheaval, have a practice match against the Asia Euro University team tomorrow (Wednesday) at their RSN Stadium HQ in Tuol Kork at 3pm. Crown have met the University side a couple of times earlier this year in friendly matches. In June, a Crown B-team beat them 5-2 and back in March, five goals from Kingsley Njoku helped Crown to a 10-1 success. The students came third in the Division 1A play-offs and were pipped for a place in this season's Metfone C-League by Western University and Boeung Ket. However, they will compete in the forthcoming Hun Sen Cup qualifying rounds, with their group matches to be played in Siem Reap.

I've just heard a whisper that one of the world's greatest footballers, a former FIFA World Player of the Year and a World Cup-winning captain, will be coming to Phnom Penh early next month for some special appearances and to shed a bit more light on Cambodian football and sport. My lips are sealed as to any more information at this point.

I was asked by a local journalist for details of the salaries paid by Phnom Penh Crown to their players, as they were writing an article about it. I was tempted to tell him to mind his own bloody business, but just stopped myself and instead said that the player's salaries are a private matter between the club and the player concerned. There is an expectation it seems in Cambodia that everyone should know the salary of everyone else, especially if they are in the public spotlight, like sportsmen. I come from a very different background where such personal information is a completely private matter. And that will be how it will remains for Phnom Penh Crown. Our players receive a monthly salary which is part of a private contract agreed between the club and the player concerned. It is no-one else's business. Read my lips.

Monday, December 26, 2011

No reward for failure

Sacked Vietnam coach Falko Goetz ponders his future
Have Vietnam got their priorities right? They have sacked their German national team coach Falko Goetz, just seven months into his tenure, for an abysmal performance in the recent SEA Games. They finished 4th and for the Vietnam football federation, that was clearly unacceptable. Talking to the press, they pointed out the German coach had introduced an unsuitable playing style while failing to use the right players and create stability within the team. Vietnam's U-23s picked up 4th spot after a humiliating 4-1 loss to Myanmar in the bronze medal play-off, and after losing 2-0 to Indonesia in the semi-final. Goetz was the eighth foreign coach of Vietnam since 1995. He had already offered suggestions to restrict the number of foreign players at clubs in order to give more opportunities to locals and additional team places for younger players, before the curtain came down on his stint in charge. It seems the Vietnam federation won't tolerate failure, which is the complete opposite of their Cambodian counterparts, who perversely reward failure. Cambodia returned from the SEA Games with a sorry record, played 4, lost 4. Yet the Cambodian federation had already increased the contract of the South Korean coach (Lee Tae-Hoon) after 14 months of uninspiring and insipid football, where the team had failed in every competition they had entered. Now Lee is testing a batch of young players ahead of an unofficial regional U-21 tournament in Brunei at the end of February, with a view to preparing for Cambodia's next big senior competition, the AFF Suzuki Cup in October. This will be Cambodia's major international focus for 2012 and they will enter the qualifying rounds in Myanmar, which will determine who will join the big boys in the group stages, to be played in Malaysia and Thailand the following month. Cambodia failed to qualify for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup to be held in Nepal in March.

An Asean Super Football League is back on the agenda, after Asean Sports Ministers recently agreed on a Malaysian proposal to form such a league competition. The Super League would feature the leading football teams from all Asean countries. The proposal will be discussed in greater depth by the chief executive officers of all the leagues involved in the middle of next month in Kuala Lumpur.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas present

Pov Ponvuthy belts a shot towards goal in this morning's 10-0 success
The Academy team who netted seven goals in the 2nd half. Back Row LtoR: Baraing, Sopheak, Senteang, Chanpolin. Front: Noeut, Chanchav, Chhaya, Sodavid, Ponvuthy
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters gave themselves a nice Christmas morning gift with a 10-0 win over the plucky Komar Takhmao, in their Barclays Capital ISF U-14 Champions League encounter though the scoreline could easily have been doubled with their opponents not getting out of their own half in the second period. Crisp passing and interchanges saw the Crown boys carve open their visitors to the RSN Stadium, time and time again. After a slow start, an own goal settled any nerves before Ken Chansopheak and Yeu Muslim were on target ahead of the half-time break. Chhuot Senteang netted twice soon after the restart and then Theang Chhaya fired in a thunderbolt that the keeper didn't even see. Choun Chanchav, Suon Noeut and two late goals from Pov Ponvuthy completed the rout.
The foundations for the two new futsal artificial grass pitches at the RSN Stadium are currently being laid. This will be another very welcome addition to the club's facilities, which both the Crown senior and Academy teams can use, as well as being rented out to other clubs and associations. Floodlights will allow night-time use of the pitches as well.
The Academy line-up who played the 1st-half against Komar Takhmao. Back Row LtoR: Piphop, Sakrovy, Sodavid, Sovann; Front: Phearath, Chansopheak, Noeut, Muslim, Rozak
Mat Sakrovy keeps a close eye on the ball
The boys line-up for the pre-match handshakes
Sath Rozak leads the youngsters through their pre-game warm-up
An early look at Crown's new floodlit futsal pitches
The Crown futsal pitches greet visitors immediately they enter the stadium area

Friday, December 23, 2011

New look web

I'm currently working on a new Phnom Penh Crown website as we approach the brand new season, with our designer Sak. He's the technical expert, I'm the ideas man. And the one who'll have to fill it. The above design is a prototype frontpage which we still need to fiddle around with and make some changes to, but I don't think the final outcome will be a million miles away from this look. And yes, before you say it, we'll need to replace the two players featured at the top of the page. The intention is to come close to some of the best football websites in the Barclays Premier, which is a tall order for a team in Cambodia, but Sak is a whiz at this stuff and I always aim high. We hope to have it on board in time for the start of the new season. Watch this space.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cambodia off to Brunei

I've just heard that Cambodia will be sending an U-21 team to Brunei in late February to compete in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy that will take place between 25 Feb - 5 March. This tournament, an unofficial U-21 competition for ASEAN countries, has been on-hold for the last few years as Brunei Darussalam were suspended from all competitions by FIFA. That ban was lifted in the middle of this year just in time for Brunei to take part in the recent SEA Games. I've been harking on about better quality opposition for the national team and a well-structured build-up programme towards the qualifying rounds for the AFF Suzuki Cup next October, and this goes part of the way to fulfilling that requirement, though the HB Trophy is essentially an U-21 tournament although the rules have been changed this year to allow a handful of over-age players. Meanwhile, the Suzuki Cup is for the senior Cambodian team. What doesn't sit well is that the tournament looks like it will be smack-bang in the middle of the latter stages of the Hun Sen Cup and the preparation of teams for the Metfone C-League. I've yet to see the revised dates for the Hun Sen Cup, as they keep changing them, and no start date has yet been fixed for the C-League campaign to get underway. For the national coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon, it will be an opportunity to wipe some of the egg off his face after the SEA Games debacle when his charges went down in all four matches and exited the SEA Games with a whimper. The timing isn't great though, as players will be called up for training for the U-21s when they should be getting good pre-season fitness and tactical sessions under their belt with their individual teams ahead of their involvement in the Hun Sen Cup, and later the league campaign. The tournament in Brunei just about ticks the box in terms of the start of serious Suzuki Cup preparation, but much more is needed, particularly tough, high-profile friendly matches at senior team level, which doesn't include Korean university teams or 2nd-rate Vietnam club sides. Brunei have just returned from the international wilderness after a two-year plus ban was lifted so they could compete in the recent SEA Games, where they did pretty well, beating Philippines, drawing with Laos and losing against Timor Leste, Myanmar and Vietnam. Cambodia's U-23s lost all four of their SEA Games matches. Brunei's only professional club DPMM FC are rejoining the Singapore League after their football federation's FIFA reprieve and the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy will be the 4th time that Brunei has hosted the tournament. Indonesia won it in 2002 and then Thailand claimed the prize in 2005 and 2007 before the competition was suspended. In that 2007 competition, Cambodia's results were as follows: Brunei D2-2, Myanmar L0-7, Philippines W6-0, Thailand L1-10. For the record, in the FIFA world rankings, Cambodia lie at 170 whilst Brunei wallow at 202, as you'd expect for a team who haven't played for a few years.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Unveiling plans

With the new football season in Cambodia fast approaching, all teams entering the Hun Sen Cup this season must submit their playing squads to the football federation ahead of the start of the competition, to be played in five regional centers, from 7 January. The involvement of the C-League clubs has now been put back until the first week of February. This cup is treated as the pre-season warm-up ahead of the domestic league campaign, likely to begin in April, though no word yet from the FFC on an official start date. At Phnom Penh Crown, coach David Booth and his coaching staff have been busy putting a number of trialists, both as part of the normal pre-season intake of new faces as well as following the open trials on 10 and 11 December, through their paces and decisions are being made as to which players will be signed by the club. Crown will hold a press conference in the week before their first involvement in the Hun Sen Cup to announce the additions to their playing squad, to unveil their new playing kit and for interviews with coach David Booth and his players, ahead of the new season. The club will also undertake a short pre-season tour outside the country from the middle of January as part of their preparation.
In another positive development, the club have begun construction of 2 futsal artificial grass floodlit pitches at their RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. This will take a couple of months to complete and will greatly enhance the training facilities for the Crown first-team and Academy players, as well as being made available for rental by other clubs and associations.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cup qualifying

The Hun Sen Cup begins in under a month. It's the pre-season warm-up competition ahead of the Metfone C-League for Khmer players only. It's the Cambodian version of the FA Cup. No foreigners are allowed to compete. And the minnows from the provinces get a chance to rub shoulders with the big boys. Though this time around, fewer minnows will get that opportunity. It starts on 7 January with representative and club teams from the provinces fighting amongst themselves in five regional qualifying mini-leagues. The winner of each region (north, south, east, west and central) and three best runners-up will advance to the group stage. That's when the top 8 C-League teams (including Phnom Penh Crown) will join the fray, alongwith the 8 provincial reps, in 4 groups of 4 teams. These Group stage matches will begin on 20 January and last for a couple of weeks, with all matches being played in Phnom Penh. Following that, we enter the final eight-club knock-out stage. For the record, last season's winners were Preah Khan Reach.
The 5 regional qualifying groups (with teams representing the named provinces) are as follows:
East: Boeung Ket - Kompong Cham (host), Prey Veng, Chhma Khmao - Svay Rieng, Western University - Phnom Penh.
Central: Baksey Chamkrong - Siem Reap (host), Univ of Management & Economics - Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Asia Europe Univ - Preah Vihear.
West: Kompong Chhnang (host), Battambang, Pailin.
North: Kratie (host), Mondulkiri, Mekong Kampuchea Univ - Ratanakiri, Stung Treng.
South: Koh Kong (host), Kampot, Kep.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crown on trial

Phnom Penh Crown got their pre-season practice matches off to a good start, as they build up towards the Hun Sen Cup competition that will kick-off in January. Not only did they beat Chhlam Samuth 6-0 in this afternoon's friendly encounter at Crown's RSN Stadium, but they started the game with an almost full complement of trialists, all of whom coach David Booth reported "did very well." More of the club's established players took over later on to complete the game and the positive scoreline. Hok Sochivorn grabbed a couple of goals, Khim Borey got on the scoresheet and three goals were scored by unnamed trialists. The club gave no advance notice of the game, effectively making it a behind-closed-doors game. Most of the trialists have been training with the club this week after impressing in open trials the club put on last weekend. The club is looking to bolster its squad after last week releasing no less than six experienced players for disciplinary reasons following their AFC President's Cup Final appearance in September.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sokngorn to rubber club

Keo Sokngorn will be holding the Boeung Ket scarf for the coming season
I'm scratching my head over one of the two new teams to join the Metfone C-League in 2012. They are called Boeung Ket and will be managed by former Phnom Penh Crown manager Be Makara for the upcoming new season, with Prak Vuthy as coach. My understanding is that they are backed by the owners of the huge rubber plantation and processing plant north of Kompong Cham city, that operates under the Long Sreng International company name. However, last season, Crown played a team by the name of Neak Khiev, or Blue Dragons, that also originated from the same company - so I presume they've merely changed their name. The word on the grapevine is that the rubber baron behind the company has deep pockets and might explain how they've managed to persuade players like Keo Sokngorn, Touch Pancharong and Ly Ravy to join the C-League newcomers. I'm sure they'll be making other new signings before the season begins, with returnees from Thailand high on their agenda. Sokngorn and Ravy both spent last season in the Thai 2nd Division, with Samut Sakhon and North Bangkok respectively. Their facebook page calls them the Boeung Ket Rubber Field FC team, a rather unfortunate mouthful for anyone. Western United were the team to come out on top of the Division 1A play-off and gain promotion to the C-League, with Boeung Ket getting the 2nd spot as runners-up. Missing out were Asia Europe University and Oddar Meanchey.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whitewash for Academy

Yeu Muslim (10) nets the first of his three 1st-half goals
The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters kicked off their Barclays Capital ISF U-14 Champions League series of matches in the most emphatic of ways, demolishing their opponents, Komar Athyreach, 19-0 at their RSN Stadium headquarters. On a mission to regain the BCISF trophy they won last season, the Academy team passed their guests to death from the start and quickly established an unassailable lead. As the goals rattled in, Yeu Muslim netted a first-half hat-trick, with Mat Sakrovy scoring twice and a goal apiece or Ken Chansopheak, In Sodavid and Pov Ponvuthy. An interval lead of 8-0 was a fraction of what it could've been. Coach Bouy Dary changed his complete line-up at the break and the youngsters of Komar Athyreach simply had no answer to the power, pace and precision passing of the home team. Full-back Ouk Sovann ventured upfield to open the Academy's second-half account, an own goal and then the other full-back, Seut Baraing got his name on the scoresheet too. Midfield strongman Orn Chanpolin rattled in a hat-trick, Pov Ponvuthy scored twice more to claim his trio, Vat Samnang netted a couple and Suon Noeut completed the 19-0 rout in the final seconds. A clinical display in anyone's book.
The second string of Crown's U-14 youngsters compete in the BCISF U-14 Premier League with a mix of Academy and non-Academy boys, some of which are ten years old. On the smaller pitch, they peppered the goal of their New Hope opponents throughout but found it almost impossible to beat the keeper until he punched the ball into his own goal from a corner. New Hope equalised but after the break, two goals from Nop David including a penalty, Kim Chhaya and Thy Ronaldo eased Crown to a 5-2 victory.
The Crown Academy first-half team. Back Row LtoR: Sopheak, Piphop, Senteang, Sakrovy, Rozak. Front: Muslim, Phearath, Sodavid, Chansopheak
The Crown Academy 2nd-half team. Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Baraing, Sovann, Titchhy. Front: Ponvuthy, Noeut, Chanchav, T Chhaya, V Samnang
Mat Sakrovy scores a goal with a slide-rule finish
Midfielder In Sodavid pushed up to net a goal in the first-half
Listening intently to their coach at half-time. LtoR: Rozak, Chanpolin, Sopheak, Baraing and Sovann
Coach Bouy Dary carries on the instructions at the half-time interval
The Crown Premier League line-up before their 5-2 win over New Hope

Rich dividends

Coach David Booth invites these players to a practice match against the Crown 1st-team
The second day of Phnom Penh Crown's open trials came to an end at lunchtime today with coach David Booth declaring himself pleased with what he'd seen. He then invited sixteen of the trialists, which totalled nearly 70 players over the two days, to return to the RSN Stadium tomorrow afternoon, where they will come up against members of the Crown first-team squad in a practice match. It's a fantastic opportunity for the trialists, who if they put on a good performance, could find themselves just a step away from joining Crown full-time. It's highly likely that some of the players will be invited to join the Crown squad for training for the rest of this week, to show exactly what they can do in the club's daily training sessions. Crown already have a few irons in the fire with new signings looking likely from a number of local hopefuls that have been training with the club over the past week or two, whilst this batch of newcomers could also provide the club with some rich dividends.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The search begins

Crown coach David Booth at today's trial
Phnom Penh Crown began the search for the stars of tomorrow by holding an open trial at their RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork this morning. More than fifty nervous hopefuls gave everything they've got in a series of twenty minute matches, designed to give them all a chance to shine and for the Crown coaching team, led by head coach David Booth, to run the rule over everyone. A few stood head and shoulders above the rest and were amongst the twenty or so invited back for a second bite of the cherry tomorrow morning, when the 2nd trial will take place. Some of the players, all over 17, came from as far afield as Koh Kong and Svay Rieng, whilst the bulk were from Phnom Penh and surrounding areas. The coaching team were sufficiently impressed by one or two of the trialists to already offer them the chance to come and train with the Crown first team, who are looking to swell their numbers after six of the squad were released by the club yesterday for disciplinary reasons. Bayon TV were on hand to capture this morning's trial for their sports programme, and to interview Booth for an insight into the trial, the first of its kind that Crown have offered to all-comers.
David Booth asks this group to return for a 2nd trial tomorrow morning
This group were thanked for attending the trial but their opportunity was at an end
David Booth and his coaching team in the thick of it
Bayon TV interview the coach David Booth with Bouy Dary helping with the translation

Friday, December 9, 2011

Massive bombshell for Crown

The Phnom Penh Crown Crown players and staff await the AFC's judgement
A massive bombshell has shaken the Cambodian League champions, Phnom Penh Crown, to the core. The investigation into the on the pitch flashpoints at the end of the AFC President's Cup Final between Crown and home team Taiwan Power Company, played in Taiwan on 25 September, has finally been concluded by the AFC Disciplinary Committee. And it makes tough reading for Crown followers. The AFC have found three players - Chan Chaya, San Narith and Sun Sovannrithy - guilty of assaulting the match referee, Marai Mohammed Alawaji from Saudi Arabia, and have been suspended from all football competitions, both international and domestic, for a period of 6 months. Two of the players, Narith and Sovannrithy have already left Crown and look likely to join Naga Corp. It was in the fourth minute of added-on time, with Crown losing 3-2, that the three players reacted stupidly to what they saw as a nailed-on penalty when teammate Hong Ratana was scythed down from behind, though the referee, in his report, indicated that he had already blown for a handball by Ratana. All three of them pushed the referee in the chest, as did Thul Sothearith, but his actions have been overlooked by the AFC, and were subsequently red carded once the referee had composed himself. They will now sit out all competitive football for the next six months.

The second sequence of events to come under the scrutiny of the AFC Disciplinary Committe were the shocking scenes witnessed moments after the final whistle. As the Taiwan Power players began to celebrate, substitute Kuao-Kai Pan raced from the bench to attack Hong Ratana from behind, sparking a mass brawl between players from both sides. For their part in the fracas, six Crown players have been found guilty of misconduct against an opponent and involvement in a brawl and have been suspended from all football competitions, both international and domestic, for the next eight matches. Those players are Peng Bunchay, Kingsley Njoku, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith and Suong Virak.

The reaction of the Phnom Penh Crown management, having waited for the AFC investigation to produce its findings, has been swift and tough. In a club statement issued this afternoon, Crown have immediately terminated the contracts of six players – Chan Chaya, Peng Bunchhay, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith and Suong Virak. Of the remainder, Sun Sovannrithy and San Narith have already left the club and Kingsley Njoku’s contract has expired.

The club's official statement reads as follows:
PPCFC cannot condone the behaviour of players, who while representing the club, have been found guilty by the AFC Disciplinary Committee of assault and serious misconduct. At PPCFC we sincerely believe that we must lead by example in our behaviour and attitude both on and off the pitch, particularly in encouraging the youth of Cambodia to follow the true spirit of the game of football. In light of this, we therefore find the behaviour of the players found guilty by the AFC to be totally unacceptable and have taken the course of action explained above. The Crown President, Rithy Samnang, added his own statement to the club's comments. “I was devastated by the reaction of some of my players in the AFC President’s Cup Final in Taiwan and have waited to hear the judgement from the AFC Disciplinary Committee. I want my team to play the game of football in the right way, to be an example to our Academy boys and the rest of the youth in Cambodia. This is a key element running through the backbone of Phnom Penh Crown FC. Everyone worked so hard last season to bring more success to the club but the actions of some players have tarnished the reputation of the club and Cambodian football throughout Asia. This is why we have taken such robust decisions. We must remain strong and stop this from happening ever again,” stated the Crown chief.

In anyone's book, that is a bombshell of nuclear proportions. In one fell swoop, head coach David Booth has lost a big chunk of his successful squad, who carried off the Cambodian League title and took the club to their best-ever international cup run. The players who have been released are for the most part, experienced professionals, having represented their country but who for a few minutes at the end of a fiery cup final, lost their heads completely and must now pay the ultimate price for their actions. For Crown it's clear, their irresponsible behaviour effectively undid all the hard work put in by the club's players and staff to achieve what most people thought impossible and a stand must be taken to avoid any repetition in the future. It's a tough lesson to learn for all.
There is no word on whether any action has been taken by the AFC against Taiwan Power Company.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What an opportunity...

In a bid to uncover any rough diamonds, Phnom Penh Crown have announced they will be holding open trials for players over 17 at their RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork from 9am on the mornings of 10 and 11, and 17 and 18 December. Head coach David Booth and his coaching staff will run the rule over any Cambodian players who believe they have what it takes to cut the mustard with the number one team in the Kingdom. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Announcements will be made on television, radio and in the print media to encourage as many hopefuls to turn up as possible. For directions to the RSN Stadium, click here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Football age cheats

In the English game, either at club or national team level, there is zero possibility of age cheating. All births are centrally registered and players have just one birthdate throughout their playing careers. That's my background. This is not the case in Cambodia, or other Asian countries for that matter, where players have their real age but are often saddled with a separate football age by club or national team coaches. It's such a common occurrence in Cambodia that few see it as a dilemma, and has been sanctioned by coaches over many years. But put simply, it's cheating and is a shameful practice that must be stamped out at all levels, both in international and domestic competitions.
The reason why Cambodian coaches break the rules is to try to gain an advantage in youth competitions, particularly in age-level tournaments, and because they think they can get away with it. Take the Asian Football Confederation's U-14 festival of football championships as an example. A youngster must be 14 or under to play in the competition. It's the coach who decides who he wants to select and if a youngster was overage, at say 15 or 16, the player's birthdate was changed and a passport issued to allow the youngster to travel and compete. The date on his original birth certificate, if he has one, was ignored. That football age will then stay with the player throughout his football career. It will also mean that if the player continues his development and retains his place in the national team squads, it will perpetuate the age cheating all the way through to the SEA Games (at U-23 level). It's clearly wrong and does the game a serious injustice.
The AFC, who initially used X-rays to determine the accurate age of players, and who now use the more reliable MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests, have sent a clear message to all Asian countries that age cheating will not be tolerated. They disqualified Korea, Tajikistan and Iraq from the 2008 AFC U-16 championships and then banned eight players during the 2010 event for trying to cheat the system. It looks like the bad old days of age cheating at international competitions has come to an end for the most part, though we still need to ensure a level playing field in domestic age-level competitions being played in Cambodia for this practice to be eradicated forever.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cup competitions

The AFC President's Cup trophy
I've heard some news about the Hun Sen Cup and the AFC President's Cup which I'll mention below, though we're still waiting to hear the outcome of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) investigation into the events that took place in the AFC President's Cup Final in Taiwan, both before and after the final whistle. The suits at the AFC have been pondering this for some time now - the final was played on 25 September - more than two months ago, and yet we're still awaiting their final decision. Various AFC competition committees met this week and have ratified the competition rules for the 2012 AFC President's Cup, where Phnom Penh Crown will again represent Cambodia, after winning last season's Metfone C-League championship. The President's Cup will be competed for by twelve national league champions and the Group stage will determine the six teams that then qualify for the Final Group stage and then the Final itself, identical to what happened this time around. The initial Group stage at venues to be decided will likely be in May with the Final stage set for September, though confirmed dates will be known later. A new face in the competition for 2012 will be Mongolia, who will fill the void created after Myanmar clubs were granted a place in the AFC Cup. The Mongolian championship, decided in September, saw FC Ulaanbaatar win the title for the first time. Taking their leave of the AFC President's Cup will be Myanmar, whose application to join the AFC Cup was accepted by the AFC competition's committee. Their domestic league champions Yangon United now have direct entry to the 2012 AFC Cup while runners-up Ayeyawady United will compete in the four-team play-offs against Malaysia's knockout cup champions Terengganu in the East Zone, while FC Victory from the Maldives and Yemen's Al Tilal will contest the West Zone play-off. The winners of the play-offs will join the four losers from Round 2 of the AFC Champions League play-offs and the 26 other clubs in the group stage. With a fair wind, Myanmar could have two clubs in the latter stages of the AFC Cup. That could've been Cambodia, if our own FFC had got their finger out when the AFC asked for applications. Closer to home, the 2012 Hun Sen Cup will begin on 7 January with representative and club teams from the provinces fighting amongst themselves (not literally I hope) in five regional qualifying mini-leagues. The winner of each region (north, south, east, west and central) and three best runners-up will advance to the group stage. That's when the top 8 C-League teams (including Phnom Penh Crown) will join the fray, alongwith the 8 provincial reps, in 4 groups of 4 teams. These Group stage matches will begin on 20 January and last for a couple of weeks, with all matches being played in Phnom Penh. Following that, we enter the final eight-club knock-out stage. Further confirmation of dates, etc to follow in due course.