Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doing it the right way

David Booth comments on his new-look squad
Phnom Penh Crown are the only club to hold a pre-season press conference. One of the reasons is that Crown are determined to adopt a professional outlook to how they approach the sport, another is to generate interest and develop a club identity and partisanship. We need to drag Cambodian football kicking and screaming into the professional era. Whether you like us or not, PPCFC will continue to do things the right way. Today's press conference at the Crown Sports Bar on Street 200 saw eight television stations and numerous printed and online media in attendance. Later in the evening I saw the event as the first item on the Bayon TV sports news, even nosing ahead of the Barclays Premier League. And this is what we want to achieve, promoting our own football, Cambodian football, ahead of the 24-hour, wall-to-wall football that's beamed in from overseas.

At today's press conference, I did a brief introduction, with Vann Piseth translating before handing over to Crown president Rithy Samnang, who spoke about the club's recent track record of success and the desire to increase the Crown branding with a new restaurant opening up in a couple of weeks opposite the Olympic Stadium. The construction of two Futsal pitches at the club's training headquarters is another soon to be completed addition. A new electronic scoreboard at the Olympic Stadium will also carry the Crown name. The president also spoke about the club's achievements in the AFC President's Cup and confirmed that he was keen to host one of the competition's qualifying groups this season, as he did last year. He also thanked and named the club's sponsors.

The club's head coach David Booth then spoke about his playing squad ahead of the new season and answered questions from the media. Amongst his comments were the following: "We have 13 new players, all of them are at a young age and due to circumstances, we have decided to look to the future with a much younger team this year. The Hun Sen Cup will give us the opportunity to check out our new young players and see how they perform. The players from last season did a fantastic job for me and the club, but we have decided to bring in new younger players for the new season, as well as give the reserve players from last season, a chance. It's time to find out if they can play at this level."

He continued: "It's a good time to change things around, to look to the future and if it works, this team can stay together for the next 2-3 years. My senior players are strong in mind and body and they will help the younger ones, who can learn from the senior boys. It's a bit of a gamble, but one we're prepared to take. We want to bring on younger players - Cambodian football needs to do this - but it does mean a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of our senior players. But they are strong enough."

David Booth spoke about his new-look squad: "If you look at the players we have, it's a very strong attacking line-up. We made many chances last season but didn't convert them, this year we feel that the team is even stronger going forwards. We are looking to play exciting, attacking football. We go out to win every game, we don't worry about the opposition, we concentrate on ourselves. In our team, we have some of the best players in Cambodia and if I was the coach of our opponents, I would be worried if Borey, Sokumpheak, Sok Pheng and Suhana were up against my team. We needed to revamp our midfield and we've brought in attack-minded players. Our defenders are young and lack experience, so they'll have to get up to speed quickly, but you can see the potency of our attacking play."

Four of the Crown squad, Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey, Sos Suhana and Am Oudom, all wearing the new playing strip, then answered questions from the media, before the Academy head coach Bouy Dary spoke about the club's plans to increase the international competition for the Academy boys this year, as well as concentrating on a second intake of young hopefuls towards the end of the year.
A look at the top table, though Rithy Samnang appears to momentarily disappeared
A view from behind the top table at today's event. Photos courtesy of Huy Darith.

Sos Suhana

One of Cambodia's most exciting prospects is attacking midfielder Sos Suhana, who despite suffering relegation with Prek Pra Keila last season, established himself in the Cambodian national team at U-21 and u-23 levels under coach Lee Tae-Hoon. On his return from the SEA Games, he joined Phnom Penh Crown and looks set to continue his progress under David Booth. He made his mark against Crown when he scored a hat-trick in a pre-season friendly before last season began.

Name: Sos Suhana
Position: Midfield
Squad Number: 17
Date of birth: 4 April 1992
Place of birth: Prek Tapov, Prek Pra, Meanchey, Phnom Penh
Height: 1.70m
Weight: 57kg
Joined PPCFC: November 2011
Previous clubs: Prek Pra Keila, Cambodia U-21, U-23 & Seniors

Leng Makara

The latest addition to the Phnom Penh Crown attacking options is striker Leng Makara, who was snapped up during the open trials in December and who has already made a big impression on the Crown coaching staff. A native of Koh Kong, he played for Koh Kong high school and the Koh Kong provincial team before a spell with Kirivong Sok Sen Chey. He has a tough job on his hands to dislodge the current Crown strikeforce but is definitely one for the future.

Name: Leng Makara
Position: Forward
Squad Number: 23
Date of birth: 7 Jan 1990
Place of birth: Smach Meanchey, Koh Kong
Height: 1.71m
Weight: 64kg
Joined PPCFC: December 2011
Previous clubs: Koh Kong province, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey

Sam Chamrouen

The tallest of our Cambodian players is one of our new goalkeepers, Sam Chamrouen, who stands head and shoulders above everyone else, except Hok Sochivorn. He spent last season with Chhlam Samuth as well as being included in the Cambodian U-19 national squad, having previously been with Preah Khan Reach and National Police. Highly-rated stopper who is determined to make the goalkeepers jersey his own.

Name: Sam Chamrouen
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 32
Date of birth: 9 Jan 1993
Place of birth: Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
Height: 1.83m
Weight: 72kg
Joined PPCFC: November 2011
Previous clubs: Preah Khan Reach, National Police, Chhlam Samuth, Cambodian U-19s

Koem Sophanal

From last season's squad, Phnom Penh Crown have retained ten players, and signed 13 new faces. One of last season's squad who will be hoping to make an impact this season, is utility player Keom Sophanal. He joined up with Crown after playing in last season's Hun Sen Cup competition, and captained the Stung Treng province team under his coach Hok Sochivorn, for the previous four years. He represented his high school Preah Reachbochanikech, at the same time as playing for his provincial team in midfield.

Name: Koem Sophanal
Position: Midfield
Squad Number: 15
Date of birth: 8 May 1992
Place of birth: Bachung, Preah Bat, Stung Treng
Height: 1.70m
Weight: 60kg
Joined PPCFC: February 2011
Previous clubs: Stung Treng province

Ouk Sothy

Next we move into the engine room of the Phnom Penh Crown squad to bring you another of the new arrivals, namely our very own 'Messi', a nickname that Ouk Sothy picked up while playing for the top local amateur team, Flying Bikes in Phnom Penh. He was picked out by the coaching staff as one of the most outstanding local prospects and signed a contract with the club in November. He was with Flying Bikes for six years and also played for the Cambodian futsal national team.

Name: Ouk Sothy
Position: Midfield
Squad Number: 8
Date of birth: 5 Oct 1993
Place of birth: Tuol Svay Prey, Phnom Penh
Height: 1.70m
Weight: 63.5kg
Joined PPCFC: November 2011
Previous clubs: Flying Bikes. Also played futsal for Flying Bikes, Preah Khan Reach and Cambodia.

Men Seyha

Next up , another new face in the shape of central defender Men Seyha, one of the successful trialists who earned himself a contract in early December after impressing Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth. A native of Pursat province, Men Seyha moved to Battambang and represented the provincial team before spending six months with the Western University team that earned promotion to the C-League this season, finishing top of the Division 1A play-offs.

Name: Men Seyha
Position: Central Defender
Squad Number: 16
Date of birth: 15 Sept 1987
Place of birth: Chamka Chek, Sampeau Meas, Pursat
Height: 1.73m
Weight: 62kg
Joined PPCFC: December 2011
Previous clubs: Battambang province, Western University

Yok Ary

I will begin to introduce the Phnom Penh Crown squad with one of the new arrivals in the first-team squad, goalkeeper Yok Ary. Despite suffering relegation with Prek Pra Keila at the end of last season, Yok Ary was on the wanted list of Crown coach David Booth after a string of good performances from the stopper, who had performed heroics as the last line of defence for Prek Pra for the last two seasons.

Name: Yok Ary
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 22
Date of birth: 11 Sept 1990
Place of birth: Roka Knoa, Kratie
Height: 1.75m
Weight: 75kg
Joined PPCFC: November 2011
Previous clubs: Prek Pra Keila

Darith's view

Crown head coach David Booth in a lighthearted moment at today's event
Photographer Huy Darith joined the Phnom Penh Crown pre-season press conference this morning and captured these moments in time.
The MC looking forward to the new season
"Does it really take that long to translate a sentence?"
David Booth and Rithy Samnang enjoying themselves
Khim Borey speaks while Kouch Sokumpheak looks on
A view of the top table at today's press conference

Crown on display

New signing Sos Suhana shows off the first choice red kit
Phnom Penh Crown held a pre-season press conference this morning to introduce their new squad for the 2012 season, which starts in two day's time, and for coach David Booth to answer questions from the assembled media. Eight televisions stations were present in addition to six of the main daily newspapers and other online sources. 4 of the Crown first-team squad were also present to answer questions and to show off the club's new playing strip. The club president Rithy Samnang introduced the kit sponsors and talked about other new ventures undertaken by the Crown group, whilst Bouy Dary gave an update from the club's youth Academy. More from the press conference later.
The 4 Crown players at the press conference. LtoR: Sos Suhana, Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak, Am Oudom
Some of the assembled television cameras at today's press conference, as Rithy Samnang delivers his speech

Crown's new look squad

The new look PPCFC playing squad in a recent photo with Italy star Fabio Cannavaro
The Phnom Penh Crown 23-man playing squad for the Hun Sen Cup, which begins with a tie against Kratie on Thursday, was announced at a press conference this morning. It looks like this. The new signings are marked with * and the player's previous club is in brackets. More on each player in due course.

*Sam Chamrouen (Chhlam Samuth), *Yok Ary (Prek Pra), *Am Oudom (Western University).
Defenders: Chan Dara (Khemara), Soeng Vanthan (Phnom Penh Empire), Sok Sovan (Phnom Penh Empire), Tieng Tiny (Naga), *Vi Lika (Prek Pra), *Thourng Da (Army), *Ngoy Srin (Koh Kong), *Men Seyha (Western Univ), *Maliky Rahan (Prek Pra).
Midfielders: Koem Sophanal (Stung Treng), *Ouk Sothy (Flying Bikes), *Chhun Sovanna (Phnom Penh Empire), *Sos Suhana (Prek Pra), *Ly Kimhor (no previous club).
Forwards: Kouch Sokumpheak (Khemara), Khim Borey (Army), Hong Pheng (Baksey Chamkrong), Sok Pheng (Khemara), Hok Sochivorn (Stung Treng), *Leng Makara (Kirivong).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Conference call

Phnom Penh Crown will stage a press conference tomorrow morning at 11am to announce their new squad for the coming season, including 13 new signings, as well as presenting their new playing kit and sponsors, their 2012 Academy plans and other club news that includes a new Crown-branded restaurant opening soon opposite the Olympic Stadium. Their 23-man squad for the Hun Sen Cup, which starts against Kratie on Thursday this week, includes 10 players remaining from last season's squad, of which only four were regular members of the team that won the C-League Championship (namely Tiny, Dara, Sokumpheak and Sok Pheng). So whichever way you look at it, Crown's team this season is going to be a work in progress from day 1. They certainly don't possess the experienced campaigners that the club boasted last season.

The Hun Sen Cup group matches begin on Wednesday this week. The top eight teams in last year's C-League meet the eight qualifiers from the five regional groups from round 1 of the competition. On Wednesday and Thursday, there will be two games per day at both the Army Stadium and at the Olympic Stadium. In Group A on Wednesday, Chhlam Samuth meet Battambang and Pailin face the might of Naga at Olympic, whilst at the Army Stadium, also known as the Old Stadium, AEU meet the Army and Kirivong face Kampot in Group B. On Thursday, BBU take on Stung Treng, whilst Preah Khan Reach meet Koh Kong, at Olympic in Group C. The 2pm kick-off at Army Stadium will be Phnom Penh Crown against Kratie, followed by the other Group D match, National Police against Boeung Ket Rubber Field. Matches continue for each team with 3 games spaced over five days. The qualifiers move onto the quarter-finals which will take place on 8 February, the semi-finals two days later and the final on 12 February. That's 32 matches squeezed into twelve days of competition. I hope the players are up to the task. The football federation have not exactly given anyone much breathing space.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Late downer for Lee

The Cam U-21s before the start. Back Row LtoR: Dara, Udom, Piseth, Chanthou, Daravorn, Rithy. Front: Khemarin, Phearith, Soseila, Sothearoth, Yaty
Ulsan University netted a late late winner, in the 2nd minute of injury time, to beat the Cambodia U-21s 2-1 at Olympic Stadium in this afternoon's friendly encounter. Both goalkeepers will want to forget this match quickly enough. They both conceded goals they would've expected to stop and Cambodia's captain for the day, Sou Yaty, was the first to pick the ball out of the net after 16 minutes. An inswinging direct corner from the left boot of Jeong Jong Hee evaded everyone, including Yaty and nestled in the far corner of his net. The home defenders and Yaty looked at each other, expecting someone to put their hand up. No-one did. Aside from another Yaty flying save, that was the sum of the first-half action. Cambodia made 4 changes at half-time and perked up but it took them a long time to get back on level terms. Chan Vathanaka, one of the three teenage Preah Khan Reach players in the team, took a leaf out of Jeong Jong Hee's inswinging left-footer book and repeated the feat from a free-kick, that Ulsan keeperJin Ung Yang watched sail over his head and into the top corner. 1-1 and eight minutes left to play. It looked odds on a draw until Ulsan's Boem Seon Shin left Nen Sothearoth on his bum and fired in a low drive which Yaty got a hand to but couldn't keep out. 2-1 to Ulsan and moments later the referee blew the final whistle. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon will be kicking the cat that his charges let in such a late goal, but on the balance of possession, Ulsan were the stronger of the teams. What did Lee learn from the game? Khek Khemarin is not the defensive midfield answer and Pov Phearith had a shocker of a first-half. Nov Soseila is isolated without the proper service though substitute Teab Vathanak and speedster Chhin Chhoeurn pepped up the home attack after the break, but also need better quality supply to feed on. Sou Yaty got the captain's armband when either Sok Rithy or Say Piseth stand out as more suitable candidates. The coach, who has a penchant for making his keeper captain, also had to play without recruits from Phnom Penh Crown and 4 players from PKR.
Captain Sou Yaty leads out his Cambodia team

53 scored, no goals conceded

Crown netted an 11-goal haul with their 2nd half line-up. LtoR Back: Baraing, Piphop, Sodavid, Chanchav, Chanpolin. Front: Noeut, T Chhaya, Muslim, Ponvuthy.
One way traffic was the order of the day as the Phnom Penh Crown Academy team gave their ASPECA opponents a 2nd half thrashing this morning. Just 3-nil ahead at the interval, the 2nd half saw another eleven goals added to make the final score 14-0 and but for some heroics by the ASPECA keeper and defenders, the result could've easily been doubled. The Academy A team continue to dominate the Barclays Capital ISF U-14 Champions League, having won all of their five matches, scoring 53 goals and conceding none. Yeu Muslim took his tally to 12 with six more goals this morning, all coming in the 2nd half. Goal poacher extraordinaire. Joining him in the goal fest after the half-time interval were Pov Ponvuthy, who netted a hat-trick and Orn Chanpolin who strode through from midfield to score twice. In the first-half of thirty minutes, Ken Chansopheak, In Sodavid and Mat Sakrovy were on target, though it took twenty minutes to break ASPECA's stubborn resistance. The Crown B team, in the ISF Premier League, eventually ran out 3-2 winners over plucky KDFO in the later game.
Pov Ponvuthy shapes up to unleash another piledriver
The Academy team that led 3-0 after the first-half against APSECA. LtoR Back: V Samnang, Piphop, Sovann, Sodavid, Sakrovy. Front: Phearath, Chansopheak, Noeut, Rozak.
Pov Ponvuthy races clear of the last defender to net another goal
The Crown B team squad, who beat KDFO 3-2 in a tight match

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Itching to return

Khim Borey pictured this morning after training, with his serious face
Phnom Penh Crown striker Khim Borey is itching to get back to playing football after a stop-start season in 2011. Borey joined Crown before the season began from the Army but dithering by the FFC and his former club meant he missed last season's Hun Sen Cup matches and then went on a season long loan to Thai Premier Division newboys Sisaket, at the time under the leadership of David Booth. He returned in time to play in Crown's run to the AFC President's Cup final but wasn't allowed to appear in the club's final bunch of C-League matches. This time around, he's back and itching to improve on his outstanding record in Cambodian football (he was the top-scoring Golden Boot winner in 2008), both at club (five years with the Army) and international level.

Early start

David Booth shows exactly what he's expecting of his players
In a few days time, Phnom Penh Crown begin their 2012 season in earnest. On Thursday of next week they meet provincial qualifiers Kratie at the Army Stadium in the first of three Hun Sen Cup matches in the space of five days. Crown head coach David Booth has been working on fitness, teamwork and tactics for the past six weeks after finalizing his squad following the completion of trials early in December. Gelling more than a dozen new arrivals with the players remaining from last season's squad has been the highest priority. Today's early morning training session was spent practicing a series of free-kick situations, corner-kicks and penalties. Tomorrow's 7am session will be more of the same. On Tuesday next week, the club will hold a press conference with the local media to look ahead to the upcoming campaign, introduce the club's new faces, playing kit and updates from the club's Academy.
In motion for this Khim Borey free-kick
Organizing free-kicks and set pieces is an important part of the team's training
David Booth directing his troops
Wrapping up training with words from the head coach

Pegged back

Whoops...the Cambodian U-21s were 3 goals to the good against visiting Ulsan University from South Korea on Friday afternoon and ended up being pegged back to 3-3 by the final whistle. In the first of two friendlies against Ulsan in three days, the next one is on Sunday, the sparse crowd at the Olympic Stadium were witness to a rare sight. Cambodia went ahead 3-nil with goals from Chan Vathanaka and Chhin Chhoeurn in the first ten minutes and Sophal Udom - who appears to have changed his name to Srey Udom, maybe to avoid his constant run-ins with the football authorities - netted on 54 minutes. Ulsan, who made 11 changes at the interval, stormed back and drew level with eight minutes remaining. A tough blow for coach Lee Tae-Hoon and his charges to swallow. Speedster Nov Soseila got another run out as a sub, after spending much of the past two years frustratingly kicking his heels on the sidelines after a combination of the Army and the FFC left him unable to play for anyone. A very sorry tale which needs to be exposed as a lesson in how not to manage the career of one of the country's brightest young prospects. The good news is that he's back on the pitch again.
The Cambodian U-21s starting line-up v Ulsan University. The match ended 3-3.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grassroots struggle

Equity Weekly is a current affairs television show that is part of a UN and government initiative to promote a culture of democracy in Cambodia. The show is 40 minutes long, weekly, and broadcast on TVK on Sundays at 8pm. This part of a recent programme focuses on grassroots football in the country, and specifically the lack of football pitches. Bouy Dary has a few words to say about the Phnom Penh Crown ground but the main sticking point is the lack of co-operation between the appropriate government ministry and Cambodia's football federation. Without a cohesive development plan geared to providing schools with suitable facilities, grassroots football in this country will continue to lag behind its neighbours. It sounds like everyone is simply waiting for wealthy sponsors to suddenly appear and kickstart a plan into action - which obviously isn't going to happen unless some people get off their butts and do the legwork.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mickey Mouse trophy

The Mickey Mouse Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy is looming large on the horizon. It's the U-21 competition that isn't for U-21s, that will be held in Brunei next month, and which has convinced the Cambodian football federation to reduce the Hun Sen Cup to a ridiculous fiasco. Cambodia are sending their U-21 team with five overage players (which is allowed under the HBT rules) and will have warm-up matches against Ulsan University from South Korea this Friday (27 Jan at 4pm) and Sunday (29 Jan at 4pm). Both games will be at the Olympic Stadium. The FFC are then squeezing the Hun Sen Cup into a 12-day window from 1 February to accommodate this biennial Asean tournament, which actually means that the two teams who reach the Hun Sen Cup final will play a match every two days, at a time when players are in pre-season preparation. That will then leave the national team coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, with a few days to coax his team into shape and take off, ready to begin their HBT games from 25 Feb-9 March. It will also allow Preah Khan Reach the time to compete in the Malaysian FA Cup on 18 Feb. The HBT tournament organisers have just extended the timeline of the competition as they realise they have to shoe-horn in 28 games with 11 teams taking part. Cambodia are sending their U-21 team, with the overage additions, whilst other countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia have confirmed they will be despatching their U-19 starlets. Squads will be 18-players strong, though only three overage players can take part in matches. I am still bewildered that the FFC have crammed their premier cup competition into a ludicrous timeframe, simply so the U-21s can take part in this meaningless competition. The overriding focus for the Cambodian national team this year must be qualification into the final stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup in October. There's a case to be made that this U-21 competition will help towards that, but it's a case with holes in it, as the best Cambodian players are simply not involved.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cup mockery

The Hun Sen Cup - now reduced to a club tournament rather than a serious cup competition
The Cambodia Football Federation have made a mockery of Cambodia's headline cup competition, the Hun Sen Cup, by turning it into what is essentially a club tournament over twelve days in which the two finalists will be expected to play no less than six games, ie. a game every two days. This is a pre-season tournament, which last season was spread over three months, but the FFC in their wisdom have decided that because the Cambodian U-21s have a crappy tournament in Brunei at the end of next month, that they will shoe-horn the country's most prestigious cup into a handful of days, giving teams and players absolutely no recovery time, at a stage of their preparation where they are nowhere near match fit. It is utterly bonkers. To add insult, the draw and competition dates have only been announced today, less than two weeks before the first matches. The words, couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery, are particularly apt. The first matches in Round 2 of the cup will be played on 1 February, with the group matches ending on the 6th. The quarter-finals will be played on 8th, the semi-finals on 10th and the final on 12th. A schedule which is guaranteed to exhaust the watching spectators, let along the players in each team. The matches will be played at both the Olympic Stadium and the usually grass-less Army (aka Old) Stadium.
For Phnom Penh Crown, drawn as the seeded team in Group D, their opponents will be Kratie on 2 Feb at the Army Stadium at 2pm. Kratie were runners-up in the 3-team northern group. Next up will be the National Police Commissary on 4 Feb at 2pm at Olympic Stadium. The Police finished in 7th place in the C-League last season, their first since promotion, but walked-off during a match with Crown in August. Crown's third game could be their toughest, as they meet new boys Boeung Ket Rubber Field from Kompong Cham, new faces in the C-League this coming season, who won their four qualifying matches at home in the eastern group. The game will be played at the Army Stadium on 6 Feb at 2pm. Their manager is former Crown boss Be Makara and they include starlet Keo Sokngorn in their ranks.

Licensed for success

David Booth leads from the front during a recent Crown practice session
David Booth, who guided Phnom Penh Crown to the Metfone C-League championship title as well as the final of the AFC President's Cup last season, after more than twenty years coaching abroad, took advantage of some free time in November to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) A-level coaching course in Manila, Philippines. David already holds the English FA's Advanced Coaching license (equivalent to the UEFA A license), but the AFC A license is equally important for coaching in this region, so it meant David joined up with a group of 25 other coaches for the 27-day, intensive 148 hours minimum residential course. At this elite level, the course is designed to provide coaches with tactical and advanced technical requirements of teams and team management. Physiological and psychological needs of the players are included and the course members were examined on both practical and theoretical aspects of the game, finishing with a dissertation. David has now received confirmation that he passed the course and now has his AFC A license under his belt. His current focus is on preparing his new-look Crown squad for the upcoming Hun Sen Cup competition and the C-League which should follow on soon after.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cup palava

The opening regional group matches of the 2012 Hun Sen Cup have been completed but the picture is still as clear as mud. 5 group winners will progress to the next stage, to be played in Phnom Penh, and will be joined by the 'best' three runners-up. The group winners are known already, whilst the FFC will now decide which three other teams will make the cut. It looks like their version of the three next best teams will be Kampot, Battambang and Kratie. The group winners, who are definitely through, are Boeung Ket Rubber Field (probably the worst name in the history of new teams) from Kompong Cham, Asia Euro University, Pailin, Koh Kong and Stung Treng. As for the playing dates of the next round, when the top eight teams from the C-League join the fray with the 8 teams to progress from the opening round, we are still awaiting the schedule from the FFC, which in itself is ridiculous. To not have the competition programme for the country's biggest cup competition, not to mention the start of the Metfone C-League season set in stone, is frighteningly inadequate. But I am not surprised, especially with the interruption of the U-21 invitational tournament in Brunei looking set to throw a spanner in the works of the Hun Sen Cup schedule.
Update: The FFC have announced that the four highest-placed C-League teams will be seeded in the 4 groups to be played in Phnom Penh, at the Olympic Stadium and at the Army Stadium. The groups will be of four teams apiece and the matches will be played between 1-12 February. The draw itself has yet to be made; no surprises there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Academy win again

Yeu Muslim strokes home his penalty kick
Unusually for the youth games that I watch most Sundays involving the Phnom Penh Crown Academy, the match against PSE (Pour un Sourire d'Enfant) this morning had a touch of needle in it. It came from the PSE team who probably felt the need to show a bit of steel rather than simply let the Academy youngsters roll over them. PSE won the yellow card count at 3-1. PPCFC won the game 6-0. Seut Baraing opened the scoring when his cross floated in at the far post and Yeu Muslim added the second from the penalty spot after he'd been upended. A double strike from Pov Ponvuthy and quick-fire goals from In Sodavid and Mat Sakrovy completed the scoring in the second half. Sath Rozak was the game's outstanding player. A pretty one-sided affair with PSE rarely threatening, aside from the physical stuff. This was the 4th success in as many games for Crown in the Barclays Capital U-14 Champions League. The Crown 'B' team, in the Premier League competition, beat the hapless CCFUA 13-2 with Nop David netting five. The Academy have put on hold a trip to Vietnam for some friendly matches as they've been invited to a tournament in Hong Kong at the end of this month, and they're trying to juggle the logistics.
The Academy's Barclays Capital ISF U-14 Champions League results so far:
v Komar Athyreach w19-0 (Muslim 3, Ponvuthy 3, Chanpolin 3, Sakrovy 2, V Samnang 2, Chansopheak, Sodavid, Sovann, Baraing, Noeut, OG)
v Komar Takhmao w10-0 (Senteang 2, Ponvuthy 2, Chansopheak, Muslim, T Chhaya, Chanchav, Noeut, OG)
v Preah Khan Reach w4-0 (Muslim, V Samnang, Chanpolin, Senteang)
v PSE w6-0 (Ponvuthy 2, Baraing, Muslim, Sodavid, Sakrovy).
The Academy 1st half team against PSE: Back Row LtoR: Titchhy, Baraing, Chanpolin, Chanchav. Front: Piphob, Chansopheak, Noeut, Muslim, V Samnang.
The 2nd half team that completed the 6-0 success. Back: Rozak, Titchhy, Chansopheak, Sovann. Front: Ponvuthy, Phearath, T Chhaya, Noeut, V Samnang.
Vat Samnang tries one of his trademark free-kicks
Friends before the game but someone forgot to tell PSE to play fair during the match

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saray awry

The starting XI for Cambodia U-21s. Back Row LtoR: PM Udom, Soksana, Sorphea, Saray, Rithy, Chenla. Front Row: Khemarin, Veasna, Sothearath, Pancharong, Chhoeun
Tum Saray will be holding his head in his hands tonight, repeatedly asking the question why he didn't score against Malaysia in this afternoon's international friendly game at Olympic Stadium. He had the best two chances of an otherwise mediocre match but fluffed both of them, leaving the home fans in despair as Malaysia took the only real opportunity that came their way to record a 1-0 victory. It was effectively the Cambodian U-21s, with an eye on the upcoming tournament in Brunei, with a few overage players, against a Malaysian U-23 team, which was fresh from winning the prestigious SEA Games, a successful tour of Australia and who are just about to commence the new season in the Singapore League. It certainly wasn't the Malaysian's best team, due to injuries and left-at-home absentees, but on paper Malaysia are streets ahead of Cambodia at this age-level, so a 1-0 defeat is no disgrace in the circumstances. Malaysia are also warming up for three Olympic Games qualifying matches where they need to win all three to have any thoughts of making the trip to London. That was the background to the match, with Cambodia fielding a team shorn of any Phnom Penh Crown players after the league champions refused to release their players. They came to the match on the back of some practice games against local C-League teams and have two more friendlies against a Korean University team later in the month.

With coach Lee Tae-Hoon needing to pull rabbits out of the hat to satisfy the growing discontent at his abysmal record in charge of the team over the past fifteen months, the Cambodian line-up included three wingers and one of the oldest players in the country, Naga's Neang Chenla, at 32. Malaysia played keep ball from the off, but their defenders looked at sea on a couple of occasions as Phuong Soksana fired a shot across the face of goal and inches past the foot of the far post on 28 minutes. A minute later, Chenla was taken off. Though the visitors looked the more assured in possession, the best sight of goal fell to the home team just three minutes before the break. A poor back-header by Affize Faisal gifted Tum Saray a free run on goal but as he hesitated with the final execution, keeper Izham Tarmizi smothered the ball at his feet. With the crowd still groaning, Malaysia broke quickly and within 19 seconds had the ball in the net for the opening goal. Ferris Danial and Izuan Salahuddin played a neat one-two with each other and the latter fired an unstoppable half-volley past Sar Sophea from close range. The 2nd half was punctuated by numerous substitutions, eleven in total, which disrupted any free flowing football, but again, it was Cambodia who should've registered a goal but failed at the moment of truth. With 14 minutes of the game remaining, Cambodia broke quickly with Ung Dara setting Tum Saray free with a slide-rule pass through the middle. Saray rounded the keeper and rolled the ball towards goal only to see Nazirul Naim arrive from nowhere to hoof the ball clear of the goal-line. It simply wasn't Saray's day and he was replaced moments later. And that was effectively it. Malaysia coasted home to the 1-0 win, didn't look world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, as their record would suggest, so Cambodia can take heart from that. More decisiveness in front of goal and the home team might've claimed a notable scalp. They didn't and it's more practice matches for the team ahead of the Brunei invitational tournament in late February.
Cambodia U-21 line-up: Sar Sophea, Touch Pancharong (Nen Sothearoth), Khek Khemarin, Neang Chenla (Moul Daravorn), Sok Rithy, Chhun Sothearath, Suon Veasna (Ung Dara), Prak M Udom (Teab Vathanak), Chhin Chhoeun (Sophal Udom), Phuong Soksana, Tum Saray (Nov Soseila). Subs not used: Sou Yaty, Um Vichet, Chhin M Seang, Plong Chanthou, Chan Vathanaka, Pov Phearith, Phang Dara, Say Piseth.
Lining up for the Cambodian national anthem
The Cambodian substitutes before the game
The Malaysian U-23 starting line-up

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Army under fire

Phnom Penh Crown gave themselves another tough pre-season workout this afternoon, with a practice match at their RSN Stadium against the National Defense Ministry team and ran out 4-1 winners. The Crown starting line-up contained no less than eight new faces, with completely new defence and midfield combinations. And they didn't disappoint, taking a 3-1 lead within the first fifteen minutes of the match. Khim Borey was on target after seven minutes against his former club and Sok Pheng netted a second on ten minutes. The Army pulled a goal back two minutes later but one of Crown's trialists scored a third goal on fourteen minutes and that was the half-time scoreline. Making changes, Crown coach David Booth watched on as Chim Rathanak struck ten minutes from time to give the Crown team a 4-1 victory. PPCFC will announce its playing squad for the coming season, as well as a host of new arrivals, at a pre-season press conference at the end of this month.
In the meantime, the Cambodian national U-21s will host the SEA Games winners, the Malaysian U-23s, at the Olympic Stadium this coming Saturday (14 January) at 4pm. It's a warm-up for an U-21 tournament the Cambodians are entering in Brunei next month. No PPCFC players have been involved in the U-21s recent practice matches against Metfone C-League teams, as they have been busy preparing with the club's coaching staff ahead of the new season. The Cambodian national team beat the Malaysian Olympic side 1-0 in a similar friendly last June. However, this Malaysian team are gearing up to compete in the Singapore League starting next month, have just returned from a successful tour of Australia and are still basking in their SEA Games success. It'll be a tough lesson for Lee Tae-Hoon's team. For the friendly tournament in Brunei next month, a total of eleven teams will compete: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
Fabio Cannavaro meets Khim Borey, a scorer against the Army today, during yesterday's visit by the former Italian star to the PPCFC HQ

Sokumpheak's big day

Sokumpheak with Fabio Cannavaro, flanked by teammates Khim Borey and Sok Sovan
Kouch Sokumpheak is acknowledged by most football fans to be Cambodia's number one player for the last few years. He was an outstanding member of the Khemara Keila team before joining Phnom Penh Crown last season and top-scoring with 19 goals as Crown won the league championship and reached the final of the AFC President's Cup. He's been a nailed-on certainty in the Cambodian national team since his debut in 2006. And this coming Saturday will be another big date in the calendar for him, his marriage to Oeu Ravy. Yesterday he warmed up for the big occasion by meeting one of his footballing heroes, Fabio Cannavaro. He also took his dog to yesterday's training session, so will appeal to dog lovers as well as football fans. 500 guests have been invited to celebrate the wedding party on Saturday, for one of the nicest guys you could meet. Have a great day Sokumpheak and Ravy.
Sokumpheak gets to meet with Fabio Cannavaro yesterday
Sokumpheak takes his dog to yesterday's training session
The man himself in a more traditional football pose
Sokumpheak and his future wife Ravy enjoy the beach