Monday, December 31, 2012

Fun Festival

Phnom Penh Crown will host their third Football Is Fun Festival on 7 January at their RSN Stadium. Invitations have been sent to four areas - their neighbours in Tuol Kork, to Beltei international school (where the PPCFC Academy study), the Andong relocation site near the airport and to Sala Leik 5, some 50kms outside of the city. Over 200 children are expected to attend, including 80 girls. The age ranges for boys is 8-12 and for girls, 8-14. One of the hoped-for outcomes is to establish a PPCFC Girls team to represent the club in the national Girls tournament later next year. Once again, the PPCFC playing squad will be involved, taking responsibility for the skills stations that each child will enjoy. Meanwhile, Crown have appointed Ly Heang as their new general secretary. He has spent the last six years as a technical adviser with the Spirit of Soccer program in Battambang - helping children with mine awareness through football - he holds an AFC C coaching license for soccer coaching, and has participated in festivals and exchanges in India, South Africa and Germany.
PPCFC have two practice matches lined-up for this week. On Wednesday 2 Jan they will welcome Svay Rieng (aka the Preah Khan Reach U-19s) to the RSN Stadium for a 3.30pm KO. Svay Rieng lost 3-0 to Boeung Ket in the Hun Sen Cup last week. Then on Saturday 5 Jan the YMA Mekong team will visit RSN for another 3.30pm KO.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Aviation downed

PPCFC starting line-up
Despite a rare subdued performance by the Phnom Penh Crown Academy, they were still more than a match for the SSCA (Civil Aviation) U-16s this morning at the RSN Stadium. Thirteen minutes into the game, Pov Ponvuthy's header from a corner was expertly volleyed inside the far post by Vat Samnang for the opening goal. SSCA bundled in the equaliser three minutes later. Ten minutes after the half-time interval, Samnang was on target again, finishing off a well-worked move down the right flank, with the telling cross supplied by Ponvuthy. A few minutes later Mat Nuron fired against an upright as the Academy boys settled for a 2-1 success in this friendly encounter.
Mat Nuron shaping to shoot

Coach Bouy Dary making a series of substitutions

In the classroom before the game

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thirty head for training camp

Cambodia's new head coach Prak Sovannara has published his squad of thirty players who he will put through their paces for the next four days as he begins his serious preparation for the AFC Challenge Cup next March. Their initial target is a couple of friendly matches against Ulsan University from South Korea in the first week of next month, hence the intensive session with his thirty-strong squad over the next few days. Five of the selection come from Phnom Penh Crown with Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana, Khim Borey and the French-Khmer imports, Bin Thierry and Kouch Dani getting the call-up. As expected Kouch Sokumpheak was not included as he's still weeks away from a return to action after his knee operation, whilst Kok Boris does not figure after suffering with injury over the last few weeks. The rest of the 30 include the following: Thavrak, Chum, Vathanak, Narith, Sovannrithy, Sopanha (Naga), Chhoeun, Soksana, Yaty, Vichet (Army), Bunchhay, Vathanaka, Pancharong, Vibol, Sokngorn (Boeung Ket), Piseth, Vutha, Ravy (Nat Police), Pallin, PM Udom, Chanraksmey, Raksmey, Veasna, Rithy (Preah Khan) and Sothearath (BBU). There's no place for Khuon Laboravy who returned to PKR's cup team surprisingly early this week after a serious knee injury with no spot either for a few other recent national squad regulars like Tum Saray, Sar Sophea, Nen Sothearoth, Moul Daravorn, In Vichheka, Pov Phearith, Khek Khemarin and Tieng Tiny.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cup action begins with a win

PPCFC line-up: Back LtoR: Seyha, Srin, Pheng, Seiha, Rady, Hasan. Front: Sothy, Suhana, Da, Makara, Borey

The Hun Sen Cup final sixteen group competition kicked-off for Phnom Penh Crown this afternoon at the Army Stadium. A comfortable 5-0 win over local team Porsenchey was the outcome, in their Group D clash, with the result never in doubt once Crown converted their superiority into goals. Coach Sam Schweingruber left his three French imports on the bench for the opening game of the season, giving the captain's armband to his main striker Khim Borey. And it was the Crown skipper who was in the thick of most of the action in the early stages. After just a minute his chip set up Leng Makara but he blasted over the crossbar. On 21 minutes, Borey's flick gave Sos Suhana a chance but it was quickly snuffed out by the keeper. From the corner, Makara headed over the top. Just after the half-hour mark, Borey chested the ball into Suhana's path, but his daisy-cutter shot was palmed away. Borey then tried his luck from 30-yards but didn't have enough power to outwit the keeper. With four minutes of the first half to go, Porsenchey's only real opening came their way after Ngoy Srin dwelt too long on the ball, but he made amends with a good block in the six-yard box to snuff out the danger. At the other end, Ouk Sothy's pass to Hong Pheng saw the striker cut inside and his drive was pushed aside for a corner. With 42 minutes on the clock, Crown grabbed the lead when Makara laid the ball into the path of Mart Hasan and his first-time shot went under the dive of keeper Kul Samnang and nestled in the far corner. A crucial time to score just before the interval.

Crown stepped up their possession and offensive play after the break and made Porsenchey suffer in the afternoon sun. Hong Pheng doubled the lead six minutes into the 2nd half. A foul on Hasan gave Borey the chance to swing in a 25-yard free kick to the near post and Pheng was on hand to divert the ball into the net with his outstretched foot. Three minutes later and Hok Sotitya headed over from close in with Porsenchey's only chance of the second period after Samrith Seiha had fluffed his clearance. Hasan was looking for his second goal, sending a 25-yard effort just over. On 65 minutes, his efforts were rewarded as Sothy poked Borey into space, his rolled cross was missed by Pheng in front of goal but Hasan followed up for an easy tap-in. Borey, the Crown skipper, continued his quest for a goal, sending two drives from outside the box wide of the target. Suhana blazed over the top from six yards out with the miss of the match before Borey finally grabbed his deserved goal on 77 minutes. Crown's two French-Khmer substitutes, Kouch Dani and Kok Boris, introduced six minutes earlier, worked a neat one-two that gave Borey all the time he required to smash his effort home from eight yards out. Easily the best goal of the game. Two minutes later and the national team striker was celebrating again. His delicate pass sent Pheng in on goal and though his shot was blocked by Samnang, Borey followed up and was on hand to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net. There was still time for a Borey curler to be palmed away by Samnang but the game was over and Crown earned themselves a comfortable opening day success.

Coach Schweingruber gave this assessment at the final whistle. "We controlled the first twenty minutes but then our midfield possession and pressing wasn't good enough and we didn't look in control as we did in the opening stages. We got an important goal right before half-time. In the second-half we were physically much stronger, able to completely dominate and take them apart, so a good first win, happy with a lot of things, and lots of things we need to improve."
PPCFC line-up v Porsenchey: Seiha, Da, Seyha, Rady, Srin, Sothy, Hasan (Boris 71), Suhana, Makara (Dani 71), Pheng (Pisa 82), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Dara, Lika, Phearun, Morslim, Thierry. Bookings: None.
Half-time rest and team-talk

Crown lining up before the game

The two captains shake hands

The Porsenchey starting line-up

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Senate slaughtered

PPCFC Line-up v Senate. Back Row LtoR: Pheng, Srin, Suhana, Dary, Rady, Seyha. Front: Borey, Makara, Seiha, Hasan, Da. Click to enlarge

The selection of assistant coach Bouy Dary in a deep-lying central midfield role was the surprise decision of Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber for this afternoon's practice match against the Senate Secretariat at the RSN Stadium. Schweingruber was looking for his assistant to be his enforcer on the field and it turned out to be a gentle re-introduction for the former Royal Navy and national teamer as Crown ran out comfortable 9-2 victors over the C-League's new faces. Bin Thierry and Chea Dara sat out the game through injury, with long-term absentee Kouch Sokumpheak, also watching on. It was pretty much one-way traffic from the beginning with Khim Borey heading in, but flagged offside and then Leng Makara volleying one across the face of goal. On 13 minutes Sos Suhana opened the floodgates, released by Borey and guiding the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper. Four minutes later and Borey himself burst between two defenders and smashed his drive powerfully in from fifteen yards. Twenty-one minutes gone and Borey played a neat one-two with Hong Pheng, allowing the latter to find the net with a simple finish. Just after the hour the Senate team scored with their first real attack but were quickly thwarted by a second goal for Pheng, on 35 minutes, after Makara had eluded two tackles and rolled the ball into the young striker's path. His hat-trick, courtesy of quick feet from Suhana and then Borey, was another simple finish four minutes before the break.

Crown quickened up the pace for the second half and went looking for goals. Mart Hasan was denied by keeper Mak Theara, and then blazed over, as did rampaging full-back Thourng Da. On 63 minutes, Hasan got to the bye-line, and his low cross was tucked in smartly from an acute angle by Suhana. Three minutes later, it was Men Seyha's turn to tee up Suhana, and the national teamer powered a shot into the roof of the net from fifteen yards out for his hat-trick. Pheng and Seyha both went close, the former leaning back and firing over from six yards, while Seyha rode three tackles but toe-poked his effort perilously close. A fourth goal for Suhana arrived on 72 minutes after Pheng's initial shot had rebounded off the cross-bar and Makara laid the ball into the path of the attacking midfielder, who made no mistake from ten yards. Kok Boris replaced Bouy Dary before play restarted and within thirty seconds had powered his way into the box, only to send his shot a foot wide. Pheng was also looking to add to his tally, but his thrust into the box saw his strike smash against the cross-bar. Thourng Da's ankle-tap allowed Senate to score from the penalty spot but it was scant consolation for the visitors. A Boris header should've counted but the linesman failed to spot the ball had crossed the line before Theara clawed it back into play. Finally, Pheng netted his fourth, with five minutes to go, sending his drive into the top corner after a neat exchange with Kouch Dani. There was still time for Hasan to sting Theara's hands with another powerful effort. Game over and a comfortable win for Crown with Dary doing well enough to suggest an extra option in the head coach's plans for the new season. The game was the final time for Fritz Schmid to aid Schweingruber and his squad, with his two weeks of mentoring and advising coming to an end. The Austrian No 2 has enjoyed his time with the Crown team and given them much food for thought.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da, Seyha (Dani 80), Srin (Lika 86), Rady, Dary (Boris 72), Hasan, Suhana, Makara, Pheng, Borey (Sothy 72). Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Phearun, Pisa, Morslim, Sochetra, Kano. Bookings: None.
Happy slappy time prior to kick-off

Head coach Sam Schweingruber receives advice from Fritz Schmid (red)

Academy success

Back Row LtoR: Sovann, Titchhy, Baraing, Samnang, Senteang, Chanpolin. Front: Sodavid, Muslim, Chansopheak, Piphop, Rozak. Click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown Academy finally broke the hoodoo against their rivals, Preah Khan Reach U-16s this morning, having failed to win any of the six previous encounters over the past six months. Games between the two teams are always evenly-matched but PKR had the edge in three of the matches and a draw was the result in the other three. So you can imagine the delight for the Crown youngsters, two years younger than their opponents, when the final whistle was blown at the end of this morning's match at RSN Stadium. Chhuot Senteang was a thorn in the side of the PKR defenders for the whole game and after a cat and mouse beginning, he was in the right place when the ball fell to him in the box and he tucked his shot away coolly for what proved to be the winning goal on 28 minutes. On the stroke of half-time, Senteang broke clear of his marker but steered his drive inches wide of the upright. The 2nd half was as close as the first with the best chance falling to Mat Sakrovy but his acute angle stinger was kept out by the keeper's one-handed save. It was time to celebrate for the Academy youngsters after a series of results that hadn't previously gone their way; 1-1, 0-1, 2-2, 3-3, 3-5 and 2-3 before today.
Pre-match instructions to the team from coach Bouy Dary

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Revised league games

The football federation have issued a revised fixture list for the 1st Round of the Metfone C-League and Phnom Penh Crown's fixtures look like this:
Sat 12 Jan v BBU 3pm @ Army Stadium
Sat 19 Jan v National Police 3pm @ Army Stadium
Sun 27 Jan
Naga Corp 2.30pm @ Olympic Stadium
Sun 3 Feb
v Senate 4.30pm  @ Olympic
Sun 10 Feb
Army 2.30pm @ Olympic 
Sat 16 Feb v Boeung Ket 2.30pm  @ Olympic 
Sat 23 Feb
Preah Khan Reach 2.30pm @ Olympic
Sat 2 Mar v AEU 4.30pm @ Olympic
Sat 9 Mar v Kirivong 4.30pm @ Olympic

However, these will have to be changed again. The FFC have paired Crown with Boeung Ket on the same afternoon as the Hun Sen Cup Final, and on the same pitch, unless they already know that neither team will get to the final! In addition, the Cambodian national team are in training camp between 17-24 Feb before they play a friendly and then leave for the Philippines in the AFC Challenge Cup. With up to five PPCFC players potentially in the national team squad, there is no way that the PKR and AEU games can be allowed to go ahead. Watch this space.

Monday, December 17, 2012

All change, again

The fall-out from the football federation's late decision to enter the AFC Challenge Cup afterall - they initially said they were pulling out to concentrate on grassroots football and because they didn't have the money - is just about to be felt in domestic football circles. The appointment of Prak Sovannara as the head coach and his notice that fifty players were in line for what are effectively national team trials, have prompted the federation to muck about with the start of the Metfone C-League season. It was due to begin on 1 January with Phnom Penh Crown facing BBU, but that's been canned by the FFC and they've announced that it will not start until 12 January and after that, only at the weekends until the AFC Challenge Cup competition has been completed. In the next ten days the trials will take place and Sovannara will reduce his squad to a final thirty by the end of the year, when the national team will get together for a squad training session for four days. These squad sessions will then happen three days a week; Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Players will be released to train/play with their club teams on Wednesday and Thursday (the day set aside for Hun Sen Cup matches, which will continue unaffected) and at weekends (C-League matches). In effect, depriving the clubs of their best players for a substantial part of the next two months and giving club coaches a real headache in terms of suitable preparation and tactics before league and cup matches. And that's if the players return from national duty without injury. There was no consultation with the clubs as far as I know. It's simply a done deal. For Phnom Penh Crown, it will mean re-scheduling four C-League matches against BBU, National Police, Preah Khan and AEU.

Other news to come out today concerns the Cambodia national team. The plan is to play a friendly, maybe two, against the visiting Ulsan University team in the first week of January. All squad training sessions will be at either the Olympic Stadium or Crown's RSN Stadium, on the days I've listed above, until the squad enter a training camp from 17-24 Feb, either at Tonle Bati or abroad, playing a series of four or five practice matches. They will have another friendly on 25 Feb in Phnom Penh before departing for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying group in Philippines on 27 Feb. They will then meet Turkmenistan on 2 Mar, Philippines on 4 Mar and Brunei on 6 Mar, hoping to gain one of the qualification places.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Top Fifty

The first announcement to come out of the football federation since Prak Sovannara returned to coach the Cambodian national team, is a list of 50 players who the coach has selected to get together as a preliminary squad, so he can whittle it down to a more manageable squad of around 22 players, which he will take to Philippines for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in early March. The idea is to have training sessions and then some friendly matches ahead of the Philippines trip. The problem as I see it, is that this late in the day decision to send a team to the Challenge Cup will now have a serious impact on the upcoming Cambodian League and Hun Sen Cup programme of matches. Initially, the federation announced that Cambodia would not be involved and they then brought forward the start of the season by two months to 1 January, with the cup matches beginning ten days before that and lasting through to mid-February. Now they have changed their mind with no consultation with the clubs, again, appointed a new coach and appear to have given him carte blanche to select players and insist they attend training sessions and play matches for the national team. Which quite simply rides roughshod over the plans and commitments of the club teams, with whom the players are contracted, and who have a very busy midweek and weekend series of matches throughout January and February. This lack of planning ahead is a constant problem within the federation and brings the national team into conflict with the clubs at every turn. How can club coaches prepare their teams for a busy schedule when the likelihood is that Sovannara will call his fifty players for training and matches up to four times a week. It simply doesn't add up. There has so far been no mention of postponing C-League matches before and during the AFC Challenge Cup, but this simply must happen or all hell will let loose. Everyone in Cambodia wants a successful national team but there has to be consultation with the clubs, give and take to ensure the domestic competitions don't suffer. But at the moment, it appears pretty much all one-sided in favour of the federation.

Back to the squad of fifty that Prak Sovannara wants to have a good look at. It includes six players from Phnom Penh Crown, most notably the two recent arrivals from France, Bin Thierry and Kok Boris. Crown keeper Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana, Khim Borey and the injured Kouch Sokumpheak have also been listed. The latter will not likely play for at least two months so his chances of going to the Philippines is extremely slim. The same might be said for Khuon Laboravy of Preah Khan who is also included. Both players had cruciate ligament operations, which are serious injuries, and whilst there may be a desire to rush them back in time, that could be counter-productive to their long term careers. PKR have eight players in the fifty, as do Sovannara's former club Naga, champions Boeung Ket have seven and the National Police and Army have six. All the usual names are in the frame except PKR's Tum Saray, whilst one name has been added though it remains to be seen if Chhunly Pagenburg, who plays his football in Germany with Eintracht Trier 05, will be tempted to join up with the squad.

Makara does it again

PPCFC line-up v Army. Back LtoR: Schweingruber (coach), Pheng, Sothy, Srin, Rady, Seyha, Hasan. Front: Dani, Suhana, Ary, Makara, Borey - click to enlarge
With the French-Khmer duo of Kok Boris and Bin Thierry on the sidelines with injury, Phnom Penh Crown lined-up against the Army at the Old Stadium for a pre-season practice match this afternoon. Crown made all the early running and effectively bossed the pace throughout the game. Pheng drove straight at Sou Yaty and the national team stopper had to be at his best to palm away a looping Khim Borey touch that was heading for the bottom corner. A Sos Suhana drive was caught by Yaty at head height before Thong Udom fluffed the Army's best chance, sidefooting wide from six yards out. Borey turned and fired wide and Pheng ended the half, with a 1-on-1 with Yaty, but the keeper was out quickly to smother the danger. The 2nd half took fifteen minutes to warm up, as Borey outsprinted the Army backline from the halfway line but his touch let him down at the vital moment with Yaty falling on the ball. Moments later, Suhana took a pass from Mart Hasan in his stride but drilled his shot straight at Yaty and rushed the rebound wide.

Twenty minutes after the break and Crown got the all-important opener. A neat interchange of passes allowed Suhana to thread the ball between defenders and Leng Makara kept his cool to slot the ball inside the near post. It would turn out to be his 2nd match-winning goal in as many games. A treble substitution gave debuts for trialists Yem Sochetra and Kiet Limty though the latter limped off ten minutes later. Vi Lika found space to get his head to Borey's free-kick but watched the ball roll inches wide. In the final two minutes, Army will kick themselves for missing two golden chances. Chhin Chhoeun rounded Yok Ary but rolled his shot into the side netting and then crossed for Khek Khemarin to head over the top from six yards out. The 1-0 victory went to Crown and deservedly so on the balance of play.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Seyha (Da 70), Dani, Srin (Lika 85), Rady, Sothy (Sochetra 70), Hasan, Makara (Limty 70 (Pisa 80)), Pheng, Suhana, Borey. Subs not used: Seiha, Chamrouen, Kano, Phearun, Morslim. Bookings: Srin.
Pre-match instructions from coach Sam Schweingruber

The Old Stadium changing rooms are open-air

Half-time breather for Khim Borey (left) and Mart Hasan

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nara gets the top job

Prak Sovannara - back at the helm of the national team
As expected, the federation have today announced that Prak Sovannara will take over the reins of the Cambodian national team as head coach for the forthcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualifying group matches in the Philippines in early March. Sovannara has resigned as head coach at NagaCorp, where he took charge in March 2010 after a stint with Preah Khan Reach, and will be joined by a backroom team of assistant coaches Meas Channa, Ieng Saknida and goalkeeping coach, Prak Vanny. The newly-appointed coach has been in the hot seat before, for a year from July 2008 and has been number two as well. I've always found him to be one of the most knowledgeable people in Cambodian football and as the reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, I interviewed him on numerous occasions. The following post shines a light on the career of Prak Sovannara and appeared on my blog on 18 March 2009.

I recently chatted to Prak Sovannara about his own career as a player and coach before becoming the Cambodian national team coach midway through last year (2008), and the first surprise is that he's just 36 years old, making him one of international football's youngest coaches. Born in November 1972, he made his debut for his country at 21, retired from playing at 27 to concentrate on coaching and took on the national team hot-seat last year at the tender age of 35. He's Cambodia's only Asian Football Federation A-licence qualified coach, coaching at junior, youth and club level before taking the top job after Korean coach Yoo Kee-Heung was sacked. Sovannara is quick to single out the influence of Joachim Fickert, whom he played under in the national team when the German coached the Cambodia side during the 1990s. "I learnt so much from him, about organization, tactics as well as how to handle players on and off the pitch, " he said.

Sovannara's playing career began at 17 for the Civil Aviation team in the 2nd Division. As a wide right-sided midfield player, he combined football with his sports teacher studies before joining the more-fancied Division 1 Royal Bodyguard team in 1993 - a move to a club that swept all before them in the top flight of Cambodian football during his half a dozen years there. 1993 also saw him make his international debut against a visiting USSR U/19 team, at the age of 21. It was in 1995 that Cambodia, with Sovannara as a regular in midfield, took its first tentative steps back into re-establishing its international presence. They took part in the SEA Games in Chiang Mai though their years of isolation clearly showed, conceding 32 goals and scoring none in their four matches. A year later, with Fickert now at the helm, they took part in the Tiger Cup in Singapore, where they lost all four games, in the SEA Games in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in 1997, where they won twice and narrowly missed the semi-finals, and finished third in the Presidents Cup in the Philippines the same year.

1999 was a watershed year for Sovannara. In the SEA Games in Brunei, he was to play the last of his international matches for Cambodia, as well as parting company with his successful club side. He passed his B-licence in coaching that year and decided that coaching was where his future lay. He was 27 years old. Though he'd been involved in coaching schools and junior teams, he now moved up a notch, as assistant coach to the national youth team for the next three years, before another step up, this time as assistant to the new Cambodian national coach Scott O'Donell for a couple of years. In 2006 he tasted a year in charge of club side Phnom Penh Empire, leading them to runners-up spot in the Cambodia Premier League before returning to coach the national youth team at U/17 level. Seemingly groomed for the top job in Cambodian football and definitely the best-equipped homegrown coach, Sovannara was the man the FFC turned to after the departure of Yoo Lee-Heung and following a few early forgettable results, he gained immediate success by guiding the country through qualification to the finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup. The next challenge will be to qualify for next year's AFC Challenge Cup finals with success in Bangladesh next month, as well as a good showing at the SEA Games in Laos at the end of the year. It won't be an easy task but Sovannara has shown he's prepared to take on that challenge, as he continues to shape and define his youthful squad.

That was the end of my blog post but I think its worth also noting the details of Sovannara's previous spell as the national team coach, which ended in June 2009 when Scott O'Donell returned to lead the team as head coach: Prak Sovannara took over as Cambodia's national coach in July 2008 after a string of poor performances under the former South Korean coach and the forecast looked bleak when a three week stint of practice matches in South Korea, produced losses in six of eight games to university and domestic teams. Not easily deterred, Sovannara, who played for the national team in the 1990s and who has coached domestic side Phnom Penh Empire and the national youth team, also cast aside crushing friendly defeats, 7-1 to Myanmar and 7-0 to Indonesia, to put some fire into the belly of his players for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying tournament held in Phnom Penh last October. With wins over Laos (3-2) and Brunei (2-1), a draw with Timor Leste (2-2) and a loss to Philippines (2-3), his youthful Cambodian team, with an average age of 22, qualified as runners-up for the finals. This was a real success for the fans and players alike to rejoice in, exemplified by the whole squad running to throw their shirts into the 15,000 crowd at the end of the qualifiers. In the December finals Cambodia came unstuck against Singapore (0-5) and Indonesia (0-4) and narrowly lost to Laos 3-2 but could hold their heads high in competing at the senior level of Asean football. In April 2009, he took his young squad to Bangladesh for the AFC Challenge Cup group stage and narrowly failed to qualify, beating Macau 2-1 but losing to Bangladesh and Myanmar, by a 1-nil scoreline on both occasions. He relinquished control of the squad when O'Donell returned. In a dozen international matches under his control, he won three games, 1 draw and eight defeats, goals for 14, goals against 37.

Picture Post continued

The Crown team say thank you to the supporters after their 2-1 success
The final batch of photos from the Phnom Penh Crown pre-season 2-1 friendly victory over the Korean All Stars Union FC team from Sunday.
Kok Boris was stretchered off near the end of the match with a thigh strain

Coach Sam Schweingruber talks to his squad after the game

All friends before the match begins

There was a few moments of silence before the game for the King Father

Sam Schweingruber greets the Korean skipper Moon Joo Won

The Crown bench before kick-off includes FIFA's Fritz Schmid

Leng Makara (23) scored the winning goal in time added on at the end

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Picture post

The billboard outside the Olympic Stadium advertising the match
Pictures from the Phnom Penh Crown versus Korea All Stars Union FC match on Sunday.
Khim Borey (7) leads the Crown team onto the pitch

Swapping pennants between the two captains, watched by referee Khuon Virak
PPCFC coach Sam Schweingruber giving his team their pre-match instructions

The PPCFC team in the tunnel with their Academy mascots for the day. The players are in red!

An informal group photo for the Korean All Stars team

The PPCFC team lining up before the handshakes

Will they, won't they?

Anyone have any idea what is happening in the minds of the officials at the football federation of Cambodia? In October they announced they were turning their back on international football, having decided not to take part in the next edition of the AFC Challenge Cup, the competition for half of the Asian football nations, flagged as emerging countries, and which offers a route into the heavyweight AFC Asian Cup. The official reasoning behind the decision was as follows: "The FFC wants to concentrate on building youth and grassroots programs (in the country)," with the statement also citing limited financial reach due to the ongoing construction of the country's new national football center in Bati. As a result, no replacement was sought for Hok Sochetra, the outgoing national team coach, as it was anticipated that Cambodia's next foray into international football wouldn't be until the SEA Games at the end of 2013 in Myanmar. For Cambodia's U-23 team. So the federation could save a few dollars. Then low and behold, the AFC yesterday announced the draw for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying competition and Cambodia were included afterall. The mind boggles, it truly does.

According to the AFC, Cambodia have been drawn to compete in the qualifying competition, to be held in the first week of March 2013, in the Philippines, in Group E which contains 4 countries, the host country of course, Turkmenistan, Brunei and Cambodia. Or will it? No official word for the federation yet confirming they have changed their mind and will compete as the AFC are expecting them to do. There is a full C-League program in the first week of March that is already planned, so if the AFC Challenge Cup qualification takes place, those matches will have to be re-scheduled. And there's the small matter of who will be in charge of the Cambodian national team, if they go to Philippines. I've heard a whisper that Naga coach Prak Sovannara is the man who will be the next incumbent of the hot seat, but again, silence as usual from the federation. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mascots for the day

Academy turn Korean. Back LtoR: Chanpolin, Chanchav, Sakrovy, Baraing, V Samnang, Sovann. Front: Nuron, Chansopheak, Rozak, David, Piphop
Mascots for Sunday's Phnom Penh Crown match against the visiting Koreans were from the Crown Academy. Eleven of the youngsters donned the white shirts of the Korean team.
Academy in PPCFC colours. Back LtoR: Titchhy, K Chhaya, S Samnang, Senteang, Sodavid. Front, Muslim, Noeut, K Chhaya, Phearath, Ronaldo, Ponvuthy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Never give up

PPCFC v Korea All Stars. Back Row LtoR: Srin, Thierry, Hasan, Pheng, Rady, Boris. Front: Da, Suhana, Seiha, Dani, Borey (capt) - click to enlarge.

Phnom Penh Crown never gave up and it paid dividends at the end of today's pre-season friendly match against the Korea All Stars Union team. A minute into time added on and Leng Makara stole in to fire home the match-winner as Crown beat the Korean tourists 2-1 in front of a packed grandstand at the Olympic Stadium. A draw had looked likely after a goal apiece early on and then a series of missed opportunities for the home side had threatened to frustrate the big crowd. Cue substitute Leng Makara who raced onto a lob over the last defender by Chhom Pisa, took a touch and then fired past the Korea goalkeeper from ten yards and wheeled away to receive the congratulations of his colleagues. It was no more than Crown merited, as their head coach Sam Schweingruber remarked. "We deserved to win, we played quite well especially with the ball up front; we have to work on capitalizing our chances but we created enough chances and moved the ball around well up front. Without the ball, we must do better. Our game plan was to not give them opportunities in our own third and we did that. 2nd half they had only two chances in and around the box. We played quite well individually but not enough as a team unit." So a happy coach but well aware that there is still work to do to bring his Crown squad to the boil at the right time. With more than two weeks before their first Hun Sen Cup match, Schweingruber will look to get at least a couple more practice matches under their belt.

With strong opposition in front of them - the Korean starting line-up boasted at least seven players with experience in their country's top division - it was Crown who started the stronger. Early on, Bin Thierry fizzed a free-kick past the foot of a post before Kok Boris fed Thourng Da on the overlap and his rolled shot struck the upright and rebounded into the keeper's hands. They made their bright start count in the eighth minute, as Thierry took the ball on a fifty yard run from his own box before releasing Sos Suhana, who fired a dipping drive into the roof of the net. The All Stars first foray ended with Lee Yuneui heading tamely wide, whilst Khim Borey had his first sight of goal, poking the ball into the keeper's arms. A booking for a pull-back by Pheak Rady gave the All Stars a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Lim Hyun Woo's curler into the box beat everyone including Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal and Heo Jae Won was on hand to get the final touch to equalize. Just before the half hour, Borey's precise pass let in Hong Pheng, but the striker lifted his shot high over the bar from ten yards out. A few minutes later and the midfield duel between Kok Boris and Moon Joo Won boiled over with the Korean yellow carded for a thigh-high tackle.

A surging run by Boris was halted unfairly but Borey's 30-yard free-kick sailed over the top. Soon after a one-two between Borey and Pheng saw the latter fire low into the side netting from an acute angle. A minute before the interval and Moon Joo Won headed a corner onto the foot of the upright in a rare Korean surge. Moments later, Borey went down under the challenge of the Korean keeper but play was waved on and in thirty seconds of time added on, Kouch Dani burst onto a pass from Thierry but screwed his shot inches wide. It was all square at the interval. Just 17 seconds into the second half and Kang Woo Ram's shot was smothered by Seiha. Five minutes later, Suhana outpaced Jung Chul Woon and squared the ball for Borey, all alone in front of goal, but his air-shot missed the ball completely. Within sixty seconds, the Crown skipper worked a neat opening with Suhana but instead of shooting, he chose to cross the ball and it went harmlessly wide. Thierry tried his luck with a 25 yard free-kick but it was deflected wide, before he hobbled off.

Crown were conceding too many free-kicks and Dani made a good block to keep out a Moon Joo Won shot. On 78 minutes, Ouk Sothy sent Borey racing clear of the last defender but he drove his shot straight at the All Stars keeper to spurn yet another chance. Five minutes from time and Chhom Pisa's drive hit a defender for a corner. As it was cleared to the edge of the area, a Boris tackle saw the ball spin into the path of Borey, goal-side of the backline, but he rushed his shot which trickled wide. It was clearly not Borey's day in front of goal with a quartet of chances not taken. Boris tried his luck from 22 yards out but the keeper stood firm until the All Star's defence was breached a minute into three minutes of injury time. Borey fed Pisa and his delightful ball picked out the run of Makara and his finish was unerring. In a frantic last couple of minutes, Crown lost both Rady and Boris with injuries though the game was won and the large crowd went home happy.
PPCFC v Korea All Stars: Seiha, Da (Seyha 46), Dani, Srin, Rady (Lika 92), Boris, Thierry (Sothy 73), Suhana, Hasan (Makara 55), Pheng (Pisa 83), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Chamrouen, Phearun, Morslim. Bookings: Rady. Referee: Khuon Virak.
The Korea All Stars Union starting line-up

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A busy day for Crown

Korean All Stars line-up before this afternoon's warm-up match
A busy day for Phnom Penh Crown. First thing this morning, the Crown Academy boys beat the Army team 4-1 in a friendly match at RSN Stadium. Chhuot Senteang scored twice and a goal apiece from In Sodavid and Mat Sakrovy settled the game in Crown's favour. Mid-morning there was a team manager's meeting at the office of the football federation where playing colours, etc were agreed between Crown and the Korea All Stars Union team ahead of tomorrow's friendly match at the Olympic Stadium. There is construction work taking place at the stadium so access is limited. There were also two games being played on the pitch later today, which is far from ideal ahead of tomorrow's televised match at 3.15pm. After lunch the Korean players had a warm-up session on the RSN Stadium pitch before playing a thirty-minute practice match at jogging pace against a makeshift team of Korean expats. Late afternoon, the Crown players took to the field for their own training session and were introduced to Fritz Schmid, who'd arrived in the city earlier in the day. Fritz is mentoring Crown coach Sam Schweingruber for the next two weeks and will bring his vast experience and knowledge to Crown training sessions during that period. Fritz is the current number two with the Austrian national team, who are involved in World Cup qualification, and is a long-time FIFA instructor. To round off his first day in the country, he was attending a wedding tonight.
Fritz Schmid (right) and Bouy Dary at today's training session

Fritz Schmid offers advice to Bin Thierry

"I'm with you for the next two weeks, let's have some fun"

Fritz spoke French to Crown's trio of French-Khmers. LtoR: Dani, Boris, Thierry and Fritz

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fun with Football

Dribbling skills on display from this young girl at Crown's 1st festival
Whilst the club is preparing for their international pre-season friendly on Sunday against a team of Korean and Japanese League players (3pm at Olympic Stadium), Phnom Penh Crown hasn't forgotten its promise to hold regular community engagement events. So on Monday 10 December, which is Human Rights Day and a public holiday, they will hold their second Football Is Fun Festival at their RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. Boys and girls, aged between 8-12 will be welcome to join in the fun from 1.30-4.30pm, with the Crown 1st team players taking responsibility for teaching the children some simple football skills like heading, passing, dribbling and shooting before the children join together for some fun matches. The focus is purely on having fun with football. Also joining in will be Fritz Schmid, who is also a FIFA Grassroots instructor, so this is second nature to him, and comes at the beginning of his two week mentoring stint with Crown's head coach Sam Schweingruber, the man behind this community event. Crown have identified the need to widen the scope of the football club and to build foundations with both the locals as well as encouraging young children to be passionate about football. Afterall, the future of the game lies with youngsters.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Koreans are coming

South Korean international Kim Kun Hoan has spent the last 5 years in the J-League
The eagerly-awaited pre-season friendly with a difference for Phnom Penh Crown, has been confirmed for Sunday 9 December, at the Olympic Stadium, with a 3.15pm kick-off and will be screened live on Apsara TV (TV11). The opponents are a team of South Korean professional players, playing under the banner of Korea All Stars Union FC, and all of them perform for clubs in the top echelon of the Korean and Japanese Leagues. This standard of player has not been seen in Cambodia before, as the only Korean team we are accustomed to is one of the University also-rans, Ulsan University, who have played the Cambodian national team a few times. This touring team will be considerably better than them. Heading their player roster will be 26-year-old, 6ft 4 inch defender Kim Kun Hoan who played in the 2008 Olympics and made his senior debut for the Korean national team against Oman. He has played in the J-League for the past five years with Yokohama Mariners, Montedio Yamagata and currently, Sagan Tosu, who finished 5th in the J-League last season. Four of the visiting squad play in the J-League, with the remainder all performing in the top league in Korea, rated as the best domestic competition in all of Asia. The visitors, who have all played for the Korean university national team where they developed a bond of friendship that has brought them on tour to Cambodia, will arrive on 7 December, train the following afternoon and then head to Sihanoukville for a few days R&R after the match before heading home and the start of their domestic season in March. Tickets for the match cost 4,000Riel to sit in the main grandstand. Crown will wear red, the All Stars will wear white.