Thursday, May 31, 2012

Festival Day 2

The results from day 2 of the AFC U-14 Festival of Football in Malaysia are just in. The bare bones of the results, with matches played over a thirty minute period, are as follows:
Cambodia 1 v 4 Timor Leste - Cambodia goal scored by Kim Hap in the 1st minute.
Cambodia 0 v 2 Thailand
Cambodia 0 v 0 Myanmar.
Head coach Bouy Dary felt that his youngsters began the first game against Timor Leste really well and took an early lead through Preah Khan Reach's Kim Hap, only for the boys to switch off, stop doing as they'd be told and allowed Timor Leste to storm back into the game. Against Thailand, who were bigger in stature as Cambodian are finding most of the teams in this competition, the head coach was suitably impressed by his team, who played good football and the match could've gone either way. It went in favour of Thailand who scored twice, including an own goal. The goalless draw against Myanmar in the final game today was a repeat of yesterday's drawn tie. Dary declared himself happy with the way his team have competed and played, regardless of the results and the Cambodian team have also impressed the other coaches and fans as well, he reports.

The Cambodian youngsters will be involved in a skills test day tomorrow with members of the C-Licence coaching course that is being held simultaneously with the Festival. On Saturday the Cambodian U-14 team move onto the second stage of games, lasting sixty minutes each, with a half-time break. The 22-strong squad will be split into two 11-a-side teams, as it has for the first round of matches, and Team 1 will play in the first-half and Team 2 will change places with them for the 2nd half. 3 substitutions are allowed to any team. The Cambodians meet Myanmar again at 2pm on Saturday and then in the Festival's final day of competition, they come up against the hosts, Malaysia at 10.45am and then finish with a game against Vietnam U-14s at 3.30pm.

The line-ups for the three matches today:
v Timor Leste: Chanvuthy, Phearath, Noeut, Titchhy (capt), Senteang, Chanchav, Ravann, T Chhaya, Nuron, Hap, Sakrovy.
v Thailand: Pheakdey, K Chhaya, Senteang, Baraing, Sovann (capt), Chanpolin, Rosak, Sodavid, Chansopheak (Nuron), Ponvuthy, Muslim.
v Myanmar: Chanvuthy, Phearath, Sovann, Titchhy (capt), Senteang, Chanchav, Sodavid, Ravann, Nuron, Hap, Sakrovy.

First day views

The Cambodian contingent at the AFC opening ceremony
These are a few pictures from the first day of the AFC U-14 Festival of Football in Malaysia, taken from a Philippines facebook account of their U-14 team, who are known as the Little Akzals.
Action from the opening Cambodia match against Philippines

The Cambodian (blue) and Philippines teams line up

A look at the Timor Leste team, who are allegedly U-14

The Australian U-14s who have been on a meat and more meat diet

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Students downed in the rain

The starting line-up for PPCFC v BBU. Back Row LToR: Tarley, Vanthan, Makara, Chamrouen, Obadin, Lika. Front: Asonibe, Chaya, Sothy, Sovanna, Srin. Click to enlarge.
The Metfone C-League is on its mid-season break. So Phnom Penh Crown have arranged a couple of friendly matches to keep their squad in shape. The first of those took place this afternoon at the RSN Stadium, initially in bright sunshine but soon in a downpour of rain that eased off as the match ended. Build Bright United were the opposition and Crown coach David Booth used the opportunity to give a run-out to some of the lesser-used players in his squad. One player who didn't manage a start was midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong who has suffered a setback to his recovery with a muscle strain and will sit out the next week. The game started slowly and sparked into life after 20 minutes when Henry Asonibe headed an Ouk Sothy corner wide at the far post. The same player then tested the agility of BBU keeper Hem Simay with a 25-yard drive that the stopper tipped around the post. Sam Chamrouen, in the Crown goal, was called upon to spread himself to deny BBU before late in the half, two efforts from Melvin Tarley should've given the home team the lead. First, the striker fired wide on the run and then missed badly from a few yards out when set up by Chan Chaya. Eight minutes into the second half and Crown nosed in front with a converted penalty from defender Odion Obadin. Chaya was felled as he broke into the penalty box on one of his trademark surging runs and Obadin stepped up to drill his spot-kick down the middle. Substitute Sok Pheng and Chaya both rolled shots inches wide of the target before Pheng made no mistake with a close range finish after good approach work by Ly Kimhor and Koem Sophanal with twenty minutes left on the clock. Sophanal had two good chances to increase the lead late on, as he cut through the BBU back-line only to find Sos Proshim in the way both times. The game ended with Crown taking the friendly honours 2-0. Three of the Crown squad were unavailable, with Sok Sovan, Sos Suhana and Hong Pheng in Vietnam with the Cambodian U-22 squad for a friendly against Saigon FC, which ended 0-0.

PPCFC line-up v BBU: Chamrouen, Srin (Seyha 46), Vanthan (Da 46), Lika, Obadin, Asonibe (Lyhor 61), Sovanna, Sothy (Sophanal 61 (Makara 89)), Chaya, Makara (Rathanak 46), Tarley (S Pheng 61).
Odion Obadin opens the scoring from the penalty spot on 53 minutes

Melvin Tarley is denied by BBU keeper Hem Simay in the 1st half

Opening day results

The Cambodia U-14's line-up in the first match v Philippines - click to enlarge
I spoke to Cambodia U-14s head coach Bouy Dary straight after the youngsters final match of the opening day of the AFC U-14 Festival of Football, played in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and it was clear that he was immensely pleased and proud of how his young squad had performed in their three matches today. Not only was he happy with their showing in the three games but others watching the matches had also commented to him on how talented the Cambodian youngsters were and how their style of play was a pleasure to watch. The U-14s began the day against the Philippines and found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat, though Dary felt his youngsters had the measure of their opponents towards the end of the 30-minute game. All the matches in the first two days are of thirty minute duration. The Philippines team had spent the last couple of months at a training camp in Palermo, Italy and had played a dozen warm-up matches whilst overseas, showing the difference in preparation between the two countries, with Dary having access to his squad for three days a week for the last two months. The second and third matches of the day for the Cambodian U-14s were in the afternoon. Dary played two line-ups of eleven players each, ensuring all of his squad players got game-time. The match against Myanmar couldn't have started any better with a goal by Kunthea Ravann of Preah Khan Reach after just a minute. Despite this head start, Myanmar later equalised though the head coach felt his team were always the better side on display as the teams fought out a 1-1 draw at the final whistle. For their final game on day 1, Cambodia faced the much taller and physically stronger team from West Australia but that didn't deter the Cambodian youngsters who were unlucky not to record their first win. A goal by Yeu Muslim on eleven minutes gave Cambodia the lead but Australia levelled and a penalty by Pov Ponvuthy went astray leaving a final score of 1-1. Dary was full of praise for his boys in both matches against bigger opposition and felt they were the better team in both encounters. The U-14's have three games tomorrow against Timor Leste, Thailand and Myanmar again, all of thirty minutes duration, before three more games that will be played for an hour apiece on Saturday and Sunday.
The line-ups for the three matches today:
v Philippines: Pheakdey, K Chhaya, Piphop, Baraing, Sovann (capt), Chanpolin, Rosak, Sodavid, Chansopheak, Ponvuthy, Muslim.
v Myanmar: Chanvuthy, Phearath, Noeut, Titchhy (capt), Senteang, Chanchav, Ravann, T Chhaya, Nuron, Hap, Sakrovy.
v West Australia: Pheakdey, K Chhaya, Piphop, Baraing, Sovann (capt), Chanpolin, Rosak, Sodavid, Chansopheak, Ponvuthy, Muslim.
The Cambodia U-14s for the 1-1 with Myanmar - click to enlarge
The Australia team in yellow completely dwarf their Cambodian opponents in blue

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U-14s fixtures

The matches for the Cambodian U-14 national team, who are competing in the AFC U-14 Festival of Football in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia this week have been announced, with a tough first day of competition tomorrow, with three matches against Philippines, Myanmar and West Australia. The U-14s will play a total of six matches of 30 minutes duration over the first two days. They then have a skills test day on Friday before their first 60-minute match on Saturday and then they end the tournament with two hour-long games on Sunday 3 June, against the hosts and Vietnam. The 22-strong squad will be split into two teams of 11-a-side which the coach, Bouy Dary, will alternate among the games. Here are the fixtures:
Wed 30 May:
10.30am  Cambodia v Philippines (30 mins)
2.45pm    Cambodia v Myanmar (30 mins)
5.00pm    Cambodia v West Australia (30 mins)
Thur 31 May:
8.00am    Cambodia v Timor Leste (30 mins)
10.15am  Cambodia v Thailand (30 mins)
4.15pm    Cambodia v Myanmar (30 mins)
Sat 2 June:
2.00pm    Cambodia v Myanmar (60 mins)
Sun 3 June:
10.45am  Cambodia v Malaysia (60 Mins)
3.30pm    Cambodia v Vietnam (60 mins)

Cambodia will not play against Brunei, Indonesia, Laos and Singapore, who are the other nations taking part in the AFC Festival.

The Phnom Penh Crown 1st-team squad have lined-up two matches this week, during the mid-season break for the Metfone C-League. Tomorrow (Wednesday), they meet BBU at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork with a 2.30pm kick-off. On Saturday 2 June, Boeung Ket will be the visitors to the RSN Stadium for a 3pm start time. The next C-League game for PPCFC will be against the Army on Wednesday 6 June, with a 2.30pm kick-off.

Services no longer required

Lee Tae-Hoon - his services will not be required any longer
I've just heard some news, late in the day, which has brought some relief from a very trying period in Cambodian football that pretty much everyone will want to forget. I'm referring to the reign of the Cambodian national football coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, over the past twenty-one months since his appointment in August 2010. I understand the head coach's contract will not be renewed when it comes to an end next month. This was a contract extension granted by the federation a year ago, though it's believed the bulk of the salary was donated by the South Korean FA. From the beginning, his stint in charge went pretty much nowhere. Aside from a home win over Laos in the World Cup, results from the games under his supervision in the big competitions such as the AFF Suzuki Cup, the AFC Challenge Cup, the FIFA World Cup and the SEA Games were an unmitigated disaster and left Cambodia lagging well behind their international team peers. There were no redeeming features of his time in charge that spring readily to mind - though his loyalty from the players never diminished - and in a results-driven business like football, the writing was on the wall over a year ago, and before he signed that contract extension. Why it has taken this long for the football federation to act is beyond my reasoning. Only they can answer the charges that should be levelled against them by every Cambodian football fan. Now we must await the deliberations of those same football authorities to see who will lead Cambodia at the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers, to be held in Myanmar between 5-13 October. The word is that they will seek a local coach to take charge. The fate of the nation's football future rests in their hands. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wave goodbye

The future of Cambodian football - the U-14 squad head for Malaysia. Click to enlarge.
Pictured above earlier this morning are the Cambodia U-14 squad heading for the AFC U-14 Festival of Football in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state of Sabah in Malaysia, where the tournament begins on Wednesday. The matches will involve twelve ASEAN nations including a team from Western Australia, and will take place at the Likas Sports Complex, the best facilities in eastern Malaysia and in a stadium that holds 35,000 people. Over 250 players from the countries taking part will start their 11-a-side 30-minute matches on Wednesday and end with 60-minute games on the final day, Monday of next week. On the sidelines of the Festival, there are also coaching, refereeing, physio and S2S (Secrets to Success) workshops for officials from all countries involved. More on the U-14's adventures as we hear it.
The Cambodia U-14 squad pictured a few days ago. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Neftchi no more

The Neftchi line-up against PPCFC in last season's AFC President's Cup final stage
The Kyrgyzstan football championship is five games into its 2012 campaign and Dordoi Bishkek, who scored a late penalty success over Phnom Penh Crown at the Olympic Stadium recently, are in second spot. They will be joining Crown in the six-team final of the AFC President's Cup in September at a location still to be decided by AFC. However, one name missing from the Kyrgyz championship this season is that of Neftchi Kochkor-Ata, who Crown fans will remember also inflicted a 1-nil defeat of Crown in the qualifying competition last season. Though Crown did get their revenge, beating Neftchi 2-1 in the final stages of the AFC President's Cup in Taiwan. That was effectively Neftchi's swansong after the club suffered a funding shortfall from its main sponsor Kyrgyzneftgaz - the Department of State's oil and gas company - and collapsed on the eve of the new season. Neftchi won the league title in 2010 ending a six-year stranglehold of the country's top football league by Dordoi, though lost out again last term, finishing runners-up to their main rivals. Now their sixty year history has come to an inglorious end and it remains to be seen whether football in the Kochkor-Ata area of the country will regain a representative next season. Football fans noticed a team by the same name, FC Neftchi playing in the AFC Cup this year and wondered aloud if Neftchi had been promoted. They hadn't. The Neftchi team competing in the higher-graded competition are from Uzbekistan.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dary makes his point

Some of the Cambodian U-14 squad, who are likely smaller in stature than their upcoming opponents
The Cambodia U-14 national team leave these shores for the AFC Festival of Football in Malaysia this weekend, full of youthful hope and optimism. And why not, they are the best of their age-group in the country and have worked hard to put into practice the style of quick, passing football that head coach Bouy Dary wants to see his youngsters play. One point that Dary makes forcibly is on age-cheating. This is where players are given fictitious birthdates/passports that allow them to appear in age-group competitions when their real birthdates would make them ineligible, as they are too old. This has been a blight on youth football for many years in Asia and Africa and FIFA have made great strides over the last few years to cut it out. "I disagree strongly with this practice and will make sure it will not be allowed to happen whilst I'm responsible for this team. I'm sure our boys will be physically smaller, but for me, we must take the correct age for the boys, see how they perform against other countries and then we can see how much we need to develop them, in order to be competitive. I feel very strongly about this." He's also keen to keep his squad together after this festival and will talk to the federation about getting them together, perhaps once or twice a month. There is little doubt that this U-14 squad will be the best prepared and the most closely-knit of any Cambodian team of its age, especially with 17 of the 22-strong squad coming from the Phnom Penh Crown Academy team, which Dary mentors as the Crown head coach. The Malaysia festival will be the fifth and final AFC Festival of Football this season after four regional festivals that have already taken place in Qatar, Pakistan, China and Nepal. There are twelve nations joining the South East Asia regional series in Kinabalu, Malaysia with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Australia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam joining the hosts and Cambodia.
The Nepal U-14s who led their festival and look considerably bigger and stronger than their Cambodian counterparts

Passed the final test

In Sodavid, 2 goals against Prek Kdam and my tip for the Cambodia U-14s captain
The U-14s youngsters from the Cambodian national team had their final warm-up friendly on Thursday morning at the RSN Stadium and came out on top against a much bigger Prek Kdam U-16s team who were supplemented by older players as well. The game turned in the second of the three halves of 35 minutes each when In Sodavid with a couple of goals, Orn Chanpolin and Yeu Muslim - each from the Phnom Penh Crown Academy - gave the U-14s a 4-1 lead and despite a fightback from Prek Kdam as the national team rang the changes in the third half, the U-14s will be chuffed they won the game 4-3. Certainly another morale booster ahead of their departure for Malaysia and the AFC Festival this weekend. One player who won't be making the trip is the Crown Academy captain Phoeun Sopheak, who was ruled out of the squad after suffering a nagging knee injury which has required lots of rest. He hasn't played for a couple of months and even though he made the trip to the Asia Pacific Academy in New Zealand with coach Bouy Dary in March, he was only able to do light training instead of a full week of development work whilst overseas.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yearbook online

The front cover of the 2012 PPCFC Yearbook
The Phnom Penh Crown 2012 Yearbook is now online in pdf format at the club's official website. You can read the Yearbook here. I put it together a few weeks ago in time for publication before the AFC President's Cup matches in Phnom Penh. It's in English right now but the intention is to translate it into Khmer language and release it to our supporters. This is the second year that we've published a Yearbook, which we feel is another way to connect with our fans and to promote the football club to a wider audience. There are features on the club's history, photographs of the first team as well as an in-depth review of last season's record-breaking campaign, a spotlight on the successful Academy and important words from coach David Booth and president Rithy Samnang.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

U-22s off to Vietnam

Hong Pheng from PPCFC, called into the Cambodia U-22 squad
After the football federation here finally saw sense and amended the Metfone C-League programme to take into account the AFC U-22 Asian Cup matches taking place at the end of June, the Cambodian U-22 squad are off to Vietnam for a friendly match against Saigon FC in the middle of next week. Three Phnom Penh Crown players have been included in the 27-man squad with Sok Sovan and Sos Suhana being joined by new addition Hong Pheng. In the travelling party are eight players from the Army and seven from Preah Khan Reach. As I've mentioned previously, I find it very strange that the U-22s are being looked after by head coach Prak Somony, whilst the full-time head coach of the senior national team, Lee Tae-Hoon, sits around twiddling his thumbs and seemingly doing bugger all whilst he waits for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Myanmar, scheduled for early October. There have been no games for the full national team for ages and the term 'money for old rope' springs readily to mind. Presumably, he has got the federation to agree to a series of tough international warm-up games ahead of the Suzuki Cup (I say that with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek) though if he has, he's keeping the schedule firmly under wraps at the moment. Now let's see, if history repeats itself, the warm-up games will be against a Korean University outfit, local domestic teams and some Vietnam B-teams. Oh, and I hear the Khmers from France, who now play under the Euro-Khmer banner, are coming over again in September to play the national team, Preah Khan Reach and a Thai club team. I suppose I'd better reserve judgement on them until I see them in the flesh.

The AFC U-22 Asian Cup has been introduced for the first time this year and the AFC expect it to become the second biggest national team competition in the football calendar, eventually acting as the Olympics qualifier. 41 national teams are taking part at 7 venues with six groups of six teams and one group of five. The top two teams in each group progress, as well as the best of the third-placed teams. Laos will host the Group F that contains Cambodia, at their National Stadium and at the Chao Anouvong Stadium. The Cambodia U-22 matches are as follows:

  • Sat 23 June: Hong Kong v Cambodia
  • Mon 25 June: Thailand v Cambodia
  • Thu 28 June: Cambodia v China PR
  • Sat 30 June: Cambodia v Korea DPR
  • Tue 3 July: Laos v Cambodia

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To host or not - that is the question

I've already posed the question as to whether Cambodia could conceivably host the AFC President's Cup final stage and the simple answer is yes it can, but there is a massive question mark over the existing facilities at the Olympic Stadium. The AFC have already asked the half a dozen federations representing the six finalists whether they are willing to host the Final Stage and require an answer by this coming Friday. The AFC have previously held the Final Stage in four of the countries who have qualified, leaving Cambodia and Palestine as the two countries that have not yet hosted the AFC President's Cup Final. That is in our favour. However, the AFC have very clear guidelines on the stadia requirements to host the Final Stages and this is where Cambodia may be found wanting. There are some very obvious failures with the existing facilities. Let's start with the stadium floodlights, which require a minimum average of 1200 lux (the system for measuring the illumination of the lights at the stadium) and would require a major overhaul of the existing lighting, which is currently considerably less than the required levels. This is especially important as matches in the Final Stages are usually played in the evening. Next are the dressing rooms for the teams and match officials. The current dressing rooms at the Olympic Stadium are unsuitable at this moment in time. To meet AFC requirements they would need to equip four dressing rooms with air-con, a fridge, massage tables, at least four showers and individual toilets and seating for at least thirty players and officials. Similar facilities would be required for the referees and linesmen. There would also need to be professional media facilities put in place ranging from a media room with air-con for up to 70 persons with desks, communication facilities including wireless broadband internet connections, to an air-conditioned press conference room and of course an area in the main stand, set aside for up to 70 press seats, fifty of them with desks with power supplies and internet. There would also need to be six enclosed rooms with air-con for television and radio commentary positions. To be frank, the list becomes almost endless when you include requirements for a fully-equipped medical room, doping control room, a VIP room for fifty people, fixed to the floor seats for spectators, dedicated access for disabled spectators, a stadia control room, proper signage, toilet facilities that conform to a ratio of one seated toilet per 200 spectators and one urinal per 125 spectators and so on. Oh, I nearly forgot the pitch, which the AFC demand must have suitable drainage to avoid flooding. The Olympic Stadium was allowed to be used for the qualifying competition but for the Final Stages the AFC will presumably demand these basic standards. The facilities at Taiwan's Kaohsiung Stadium last year were world class by comparison to the Olympic Stadium and is the level that all countries should aspire to. I have no idea of how much it would cost to bring Cambodia's national stadium up to scratch, but it wouldn't come cheap. I'm told that there is a desire to bring the finals here, so it remains to be seen if the AFC look kindly on Cambodia's application to host the Final Stage, rather than the claims of Chinese Taipei, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan or Palestine. The finals are scheduled for 24-30 September.

Common sense prevails

The football federation here in Cambodia appear to have received an infusion of common sense. Their original fixture list for the Metfone C-League season did not take into account the participation of the Cambodian U-22 team in the brand new AFC U-22 Asian Cup competition, with Cambodia involved in Group F to be played in Laos towards the end of June. Presumably someone must've switched on the lights for them and they've now confirmed major amendments to the C-League fixtures for the second half of the season. There will be no matches whilst the U-22s are in Laos - they play five matches between 23 June and 3 July - and for Phnom Penh Crown their fixture list for the rest of the season has been changed to the following:

Wed 6 June v Army - 2.30pm
Sat 9 June v National Police - 2.30pm
Sun 17 June v Western Uni - 4.30pm
Wed 11 July v Boeung Ket - 3pm
Sat 21 July v Chhlam Samuth - 4.30pm
Sat 28 July v BBU - 2.30pm
Sat 4 August v Kirivong - 2.30pm
Sun 12 August v Army - 2.30pm
Sun 19 August v NagaCorp - 4.30pm
Sat 25 August v Preah Khan Reach - 2.30pm

Monday, May 21, 2012

Police in charge

Sunday's Metfone C-League matches went according to the formbook and the league table standings. In fact National Police's 2-0 win over Kirivong put them back in pole position heading into the 2nd round of matches. They were even confident enough to bench leading scorer Nelson Oladiji in favour of the return of journeyman Nuth Sinoun for the start of the game, though Oladiji wasn't to be denied and after getting on after an hour, the league's top marksman netted his customary goal with eight minutes remaining to confirm the win. Police had led just before the half-hour when Srey Udom fired home. Kirivong made it even harder for themselves when In Vichheka tripped Udom as he raced through on goal and was rightly red carded. Described as a 'professional foul' it's anything but professional and more deliberate cheating, as is the amount of feigning injury we see in every match these days. One moment players are rolling around and screaming as though their leg has been sawn off, the next moment they are sprinting full pelt after the ball. It's pathetic and a blight on the modern game in my view. In Sunday's opening encounter, Boeung Ket thrashed the helpless Chhlam Samuth 7-0, who were unable to play George Bisan against his host club. In his absence they looked toothless as the Rubbermen dominated from start to finish. Friday Nwakuna scored a brace both sides of the half-time break to take him up to the top of the scorer's chart. Keo Sokngorn had opened up the scoring-spree with a header on the half-hour but was forced off the pitch later on after a bang in the face. His younger brother, Keo Sokpheng, with a rare start, staked his claim for a regular start with two goals as Boeung Ket moved into fourth spot.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In good spirits

The all-PPCFC bar 1 line-up for the 2nd half: Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Sovann, Sodavid, Baraing, K Chhaya, Chanvuthy. Front: Chansopheak, Piphop, Rozak, Muslim, Ponvuthy.
 With the final squad of 22 players chosen for the Cambodian U-14's national team that will be winging its way to Malaysia next weekend, they took on the Prek Kdam U-15s on Sunday morning in a final practice match, at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. National coach Bouy Dary has selected 17 of his own Phnom Penh Crown Academy players to form the bulk of the squad, which will certainly help with continuity, while Preah Khan Reach supply three players and the Army and Prek Kdam one apiece. Dary began the practice match with a mixed line-up for the first of three thirty minute halves. PKR striker Kim Hap's two goals in a minute put the U-14's in the driving seat though a penalty for Prek Kdam gave them a moment to celebrate. Just before the first break, Mat Sakrovy struck the bar and as the ball came down to Mat Nuron, he was felled in the area. Sakrovy stroked home the penalty to make it 3-1 at the interval. In the second period, Dary selected his full Crown line-up, except the keeper, and they went to town against their opponents. Yeu Muslim used his goal-poaching instincts to good effect with two tap-ins and a lob for his hat-trick. Other goals rattled in from Orn Chanpolin, In Sodavid with a penalty, Ouk Sovann curled in a free-kick and Pov Ponvuthy showed quick feet to net a superb individual effort to put the U-14's 10-1 ahead at the second interval. For the third half, the coach made further changes and three more goals took the final score to 13-1. Kim Hap completed his hat-trick, Nuron scored after a mazy run and Sodavid collected his second with a long range effort. The U-14s had made this older opponents work hard and go into training camp this week in high spirits.
The Cambodia U-14s starting line-up for the opening half. Back LtoR: Pheakdey, Titchhy, Ravann, Hap, Senteang, Sakrovy. Front: Chanchav, Phearath, Nuron, T Chhaya, Noeut.
In Sodavid keeps his eyes firmly on the ball as he strikes this penalty

Ken Chansopheak executes the perfect cross

Coach Bouy Dary offering his boys a half-time team talk
The Cambodia U-14's squad line up before the match begins

U-14s squad announced

The final 22 players & coaches with Cambodia's U-14s - click to enlarge
I can reveal the Cambodian U-14 national squad for the forthcoming AFC Festival of Football in Kinabalu, Malaysia, with the squad and coaches leaving on 27 May and returning on 4 June. This is the fifth regional AFC competition this year, with others already played in Qatar, Pakistan, China and Nepal. There are twelve nations joining the South East Asia region competition in Malaysia with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Australia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam joining the hosts and Cambodia. Match results from the festival are not made public as the AFC firmly believe that it's more about instilling love of the game among the young players and honing their basic skills and teamwork rather than being results-orientated. The man in charge of the team is Bouy Dary, a former national player and now the head coach of the Phnom Penh Academy. His assistant coaches are Long Rithea (from the Army) and Ouk Mic (PKR's former national goalkeeper). The selection process saw over 100 youngsters whittled down to a squad of thirty before the announcement of today's final squad of 22 players, who will travel to Malaysia to represent their country. The squad is:
Goalkeepers: Kung Chanvuthy (Prek Kdam), That Pheakdey (Preah Khan Reach).
Defenders: Long Phearath, Men Piphop, Ouk Sovann, Seut Baraing, Kim Chhaya, Suon Noeut, Chhuot Senteang, Sraing Titchhy (all Phnom Penh Crown).
Midfielders: Sath Rozak, Orn Chanpolin, In Sodavid, Choun Chanchav, Theang Chhaya (all PPCFC), Kunthea Ravann (Preah Khan Reach).
Forwards: Yeu Muslim, Pon Ponvuthy, Ken Chansopheak, Mat Sakrovy (all PPCFC), Kim Hap (Preah Khan Reach), Mat Nuron (Army).  

National coach Bouy Dary had this to say on releasing the names of his final squad selection. "We started the selection process in mid-March with over 100 boys and in two weeks we reduced that to thirty boys. We have trained twice a week, Thursday and Friday, with a game every Sunday since then. They've worked really hard and have tried hard to do what I've asked of them. They have all improved a lot. We played two games against the older boys at Preah Khan Reach and they did everything I asked them to do, though because our boys are smaller we had problems in the attacking and defensive third. I now know what to do against bigger teams. We expect teams from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will be bigger and I think Japan and Korea will be well developed.
We plan to take them into training camp on 22 May at Cheng Meng, so we'll train every day and have a match or two before we leave for Malaysia. I want them to play good football, attacking football, good passing and be well organized. We are small but we are quick, so we'll try to play short passes and move, rather than concentrate on possession football. I have my view on how I want the game to be played and we will do our best to represent Cambodia in the right way. As the coach, I want to win and to win we must play good football, as a team. That is our aim."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Army implode

Preah Khan, 2-1 winners with their three foreigners in the starting XI
Preah Khan moved into 2nd spot in the Metfone C-League with a fortunate 2-1 win over the Army at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. With three African players down the spine of their team, after they played last term and most of this without a foreign player in sight, Preah Khan have abandoned their Khmer-only policy and they hope it will give them the edge in this season's race for the championship title. Both teams missed a couple of chances before Army took the lead through Phoung Soksana fifteen minutes from time. They then promptly, and carelessly, lost Neth Veasna to a second bookable offence. This gave PKR the lift they needed and Lay Raksmey finished off a bout of head-tennis with the leveller four minutes from time. PKR missed some clear-cut openings before they finally cracked it, two minutes into time added on when Khek Khemarin unwittingly diverted David Njoku's mis-hit shot past his own keeper. Four minutes into the five added on by referee Neang Sorithya and Army keeper Um Vichet recklessly caught Prak Mony Udom as he sped into the box and was immediately red-carded. Sou Yaty took the gloves and pulled off a great save to halt Njoku's spot-kick as the referee called time on Preah Khan's 4th straight win. In the afternoon's second match, I found it hard to stay awake as Build Bright made heavy weather of a 1-nil win over Western University. The goal came on the stroke of half-time when Pech Sina stooped to head in Chhun Sothearath's free-kick. The only other note I made was a 2nd yellow, followed by a red card, for Western's Yoeu Soeukirin.
The Army line-up, a mite unlucky to lose against Preah Khan

Referee Neang Sorithya having trouble controlling his tossing

BBU, 1-0 winners over Western University

Academy jet-setters

The PPCFC Academy celebrate 3rd place in the 2011 Singapore Sixes competition
Many of the youngsters in the Phnom Penh Crown Academy squad will be jet-setting around Asia this month and next. On Sunday next week they head for Kinabalu in Malaysia to take part in the AFC Festival of Football as part of the Cambodian U-14s national football squad. The final make-up of the 22-strong squad will be announced tomorrow. They will be rubbing shoulders with eleven other Southeast Asia nations at the festival, designed to promote everything that is good about the game at a young age. They will return home on 4 June. Following on from their Malaysian adventures, half of the Academy group will then be heading to Singapore for the weekend of 30 June-1 July to once again take part in the prestigious Soccer Sixes 2012 tournament, hosted by Singapore Cricket Club. With ex-Arsenal star Ray Parlour as the guest of honour, the PPCFC Academy will join seven other U-14 teams in the Charity Tournament, a competition which they took part in last year, and finished a very creditable third against charitable institutions from Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. The Soccer Sixes is now becoming a major event in the Asian football calendar and PPCFC are very pleased to be invited back again, after the youngsters impressed everyone with their footballing talent last time around. The Tournament website had this to say about the Academy boys: 'Phnom Penh Crown Academy finished third overall with a technical display of football that is well beyond their years and became the talking point throughout the weekend with the fans.' Whenever and wherever the youngsters have represented Cambodia and the Academy, they have been a real credit to themselves and their coaches and I have no doubt this will continue. 
Pov Ponvuthy celebrates in style after another PPCFC victory in the 2011 Sixes tournament

Friday, May 18, 2012

A look at the goals

A look at the goals from Phnom Penh Crown's venture into the RHB Singapore Cup this season. A creditable 4-3 defeat against the S-League champions Tampines Rovers, courtesy of

Before the game

Having a chat with Tampines coach Steven Tan before the game. Pic Andrew Him.
Andrew Him, a photographer in Singapore, snapped a couple more pictures of me before the match began on Wednesday night. He also took some great action shots of the game, which he's posted onto his Facebook page. He felt the floodlights weren't strong enough for good photography, but then he's never been to a game at the Olympic Stadium under lights. Then he would have something to be annoyed about. I hear the AFC tested the Olympic lights for their lux value recently and found them hopelessly understrength for international matches. No surprise there.
Reviewing the opposition team line-up with Crown coach David Booth. Pic. Andrew Him.

PKR to 3rd

In my absence, the one midweek Metfone C-League game played saw Preah Khan Reach defeat Kirivong 2-1 at Olympic Stadium in what was an ill-tempered game. Referee Chy Samedy is new to the panel this season and was in the spotlight after this game, in which he dismissed three. Rain left the playing surface underwater, again, and Kirivong took the lead from the penalty spot just before the break, through Em Phanna, in controversial circumstances. PKR wouldn't let it go and their irate coach was banished to the grandstand. Soon after both teams lost a player to a red card after PKR's Moul Daravorn and Kirivong's Touch Sokheang took a dislike to each other. PKR took better advantage of the situation and netted twice, through Sok Chanraksmey and David Njoku, to put the result to bed and move into 3rd spot.
The fixtures for the coming weekend pair up Preah Khan Reach (a win would take them to 2nd spot) with the Army for the early game on Saturday, followed by BBU v Western University. On Sunday, National Police can overtake NagaCorp at the top if they beat Kirivong in the 4.30pm start. The first game will see Chhlam Samuth trying to stem the Rubbermen of Boeung Ket.

Back of my head

Updating Facebook at last night's Singapore Cup game. Pic Andrew Him
This guerrilla photo was taken behind my back, quite literally. Andrew Him is a photographer from Singapore who popped up to the press-box at the Clementi Stadium last night and sent me this reminder that I spent most of the match updating the Phnom Penh Crown Facebook page or jumping up and down and shouting whenever we scored - not a great idea as I was sat next to the match commissioner though I gave him a copy of the Crown Yearbook to keep him happy. Thanks for the picture Andrew. For the first time in my life I look almost studious.
I had a brief chat with former Crown head coach Bojan Hodak yesterday as his new team, Kelantan from Malaysia are in the Malaysian FA Cup Final this weekend. The people of the province of Kelantan are mad about their football and in two days of going on sale, 30,000 tickets had been snapped up for the final. They are expecting a 90,000 crowd at the national stadium in Kuala Lumpur with Kelantan providing the majority. In fact the provincial authorities have declared Sunday, the cup final day, as a national holiday.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Final game for U-14s

I hope to announce the Cambodian U-14 national team this weekend, ahead of the youngsters leaving for the AFC Festival of Football in Kinabalu, Malaysia on 27 May and returning on 4 June. National coach Bouy Dary will leave a couple of days earlier to prepare for the arrival of his 22-strong squad, with the players selected from four clubs, Phnom Penh Crown, Preah Khan Reach, Prek Kdam and National Defense. The squad will have their final practice match this Sunday morning at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork, against Prek Kdam U-15s at 8.30am. The festival is aimed at instilling love of the game among young players and honing their basic skills instead of being a win-lose tournament. For example, the results of the four regional festivals that have already taken place in Qatar, Pakistan, China and Nepal have not been made public. There are twelve nations joining the South East Asia regional series in Malaysia with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Australia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam joining the hosts and Cambodia. It promises to be a great experience for the young men and it's no secret that the majority of the squad will come from Bouy Dary's own Phnom Penh Crown Academy, who have already tasted international competition in Singapore and Vietnam.

A lingering look

Coach David Booth with his Crown players before they leave the dressing room
A few more photos from last night's exit from the Singapore Cup for Phnom Penh Crown. They just didn't quite have enough to match Tampines Rovers on the night, who shaded the game despite a dramatic comeback by Crown early in the 2nd half. However, they couldn't sustain the momentum and the home team's man of the moment, as he has been for many years, Bosnian-born striker Alexsandar Duric came up trumps when it mattered most - in the penalty box. He says it's his final season in Singapore and with more than 300 goals to his name, every defence in the city state's league will be glad to hear that. The meagre attendance of 487 included a group of Cambodian students studying in Singapore, as well as the Cambodian Ambassador. 
Captain Kouch Sokumpheak with his teammates in the tunnel

Crown line-up for the pre-match handshakes

The two captains and match officials pose; Duric on the left, Sokumpheak on the right

A final all-together before kick-off

A view from the press box, quite a way from the action

The dejection is palpable at the final whistle

The winning team receive their after-match plaudits, including star striker Alexsandar Duric (center)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"We gave them the game"

Coach David Booth speaks to the Singapore press after the match
Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth wasn't at all happy with his team's defending in their 4-3 defeat at the hands of Tampines Rovers in the RHB Singapore Cup tie played at Clementi Stadium. After the match he commented: "They didn't win it, we gave them the game. We gave away four goals, easy goals. We had a job to do, we've worked for three days on what to do and how to do it and we've just not done it, and handed them two goals in a minute at the end of the 1st half. Other than that we've come back, tried to make a game of it and then given them the last goal again by not doing the job and the work I've asked them to do. If we can't do the job, don't go inside the field.
I was pleased we went out and showed some spirit and some pressure, but we got back to 3-3 and then gave a soft goal away again. It defies all the work we've put in. It's soul-destroying for some players who are working so hard. I just felt we've thrown the game away when we had a chance to do something. It's very disappointing really."

Crown go down fighting

PPCFC v Tampines. Back LtoR: Sothy, Njoku, Dara, Tarley, Rady, Sovan. Front: Tiny, Ary, Suhana, Sokumpheak, Borey.

Where do I start? How about at the end, when the dejection and disappointment etched on the face of every Phnom Penh Crown player told it's own story. To have fought so well, so bravely, to have clawed their way back into the match against what on paper is far superior opposition and then to let it slip through their grasp again, is a bitter pill to swallow. Of course it's all about learning the lessons from such encounters, though for tonight it's simply about being gutted. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the players don't cry in their sleep. In fact I hope they do, because that will mean they really feel it. And that's the type of player we want in our team. Without Odion Obadin and Emmanuel Frimpong, both left back at home, Crown were not at full strength for this preliminary round, one-leg RHB Singapore Cup match. Invited once again to participate by the generosity of the Singapore FA, the opposition doesn't come much tougher than the reigning S-League champions Tampines Rovers. Hurt by their recent exit from the AFC Cup, Tampines were in no mood to fail again. In Alexsandar Duric, they have the all-time goalscoring legend of Singapore leading their attack at the age of 42 and he is the pivot of everything they do. And so it proved.

The word roller-coaster is a bit obvious to use for this match, but that's how it panned out. Tampines provided the main thrust early doors with Jamil Ali letting rip from 20 yards only to see the ball gathered safely by Yok Ary, and Duric taking too long with a shot that Tieng Tiny blocked. In the 15th minute, Kouch Sokumpheak was fouled out on the touchline and Pheak Rady's free-kick was met by the forehead of a leaping Khim Borey who planted the ball inside the near post for the game's opening goal. Fahrudin Mustafic sent a rasping free-kick inches over the cross-bar and then Ahmed Fahmie should've done better when he was free at the far post, but ballooned over badly. Yok Ary dived full-length to his right to keep out a Gligor Gligorov grass-cutter from 30 yards out and was then in position to collect a Duric header from just inside the box. Melvin Tarley's first real involvement saw him plant a near post header into the hands of home keeper Sasa Dreven, and just before the half-hour, he collected a pass from Kingsley Njoku but blasted his drive well over. A minute later Sokumpheak took aim with a half-volley from a poor defensive clearance but was off target.

In the Crown goal, Yok Ary's safe hands denied Ismadi Mukhtar's far post effort but the keeper went down clutching his right ankle, waving frantically to the bench. After four minutes of treatment, he returned to his duties but with just three minutes of the half remaining, he was left helpless when Duric turned Tiny in the box and fired a low, rasping shot inside the far post for the equalizer. The referee signalled two minutes of injury time to the first-half and those two minutes were so nearly the undoing of the Cambodian team. Sok Sovan's weak defensive header was seized upon by Jamil Ali and he weaved his way into the penalty box, leaving Ary on the floor as he finished with a neat chip. In the third minute of added-on time, Ahmad Latiff's measured pass put in Imran Sahib for a free run on goal and he lashed his shot past Ary with consummate ease to turn the game on its head as the half-time whistle was blown. From a position of strength, Crown were now 3-1 behind and with a mountain to climb. Defensively, they had switched off as half-time approached and were made to pay dearly. Coach David Booth's interval team-talk focused on what they needed to do, to get back into the match and the turnaround would be as equally remarkable.

The first sniff on goal after the break came from Tarley's powerful header which cleared the bar. It was his last piece of action, before he and Ouk Sothy were replaced by Sok Pheng and Henry Asonibe on 56 minutes. Half a minute later, a foul on Njoku allowed Khim Borey to float a free-kick from thirty yards out, to an unmarked Kouch Sokumpheak racing towards the far post and his expertly timed volley sailed past Dreven. It was game on, and a perfect move transplanted from the training ground. With the bit between their teeth, Crown pressed forward and Sos Suhana's pass allowed Njoku a run on goal, only for his shot to be smothered by Dreven. Next it was Suhana who went close when his toe-poke rebounded to safety off the foot of the upright. Then on the hour, Crown got the breakthrough they deserved. Pheak Rady's cross fell to Sok Pheng and his low drive was pushed out by Dreven, only for Kouch Sokumpheak to head goalwards and be denied by the keeper again. Third-time lucky, the ball rolled back to Sokumpheak and he gleefully lashed it into the gaping net. It was now 3-3 and all to play for. Tampines finally found their feet again and Latiff's shot was deflected for a corner by Sovan. However, the same player was unable to hold off the talismanic Duric on 64 minutes, as the local hero received a pass from Gligorov, turned and did what he does best, found the back of the net with unerring accuracy from fifteen yards out. It was a deflating moment for Crown, who'd done wonders to get out of jail only to fall to a sucker punch just moments later.

A couple of minutes on and Sokumpheak struck a vicious shot over the cross-bar from 25 yards out, but Tampines were in no mood to relinquish their new-found lead. As the game entered the last ten minutes, Latiff twice found space on the edge of the box but failed on both occasions to work the goalkeeper and then Gligorov was also wayward in his finishing. In a desperate last few minutes, Tampines got everyone back in their penalty area to defend a free-kick and a corner, successfully it turned out, as the final whistle went and the home side had registered a hard-fought 4-3 success over a very game Crown team.
PPCFC v Tampines: Ary, Dara, Rady, Sovan, Tiny, Sothy (Asonibe 56), Suhana, Borey, Sokumpheak, Njoku (H Pheng 76), Tarley (S Pheng 56). Subs not used: Chamrouen, Lika, Sovanna. Bookings: Sovan. Attendance: 487.