Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Numero Trois

PPCFC's latest signing, French-Khmer midfielder Dani Kouch
With the new season fast approaching, Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber is a busy man. Yesterday, he was coaching the Cambodia U-15 girls team as well as running Crown's first Festival of Football for young children, and today he's heading to Sochi in Russia for a prestigious awards ceremony where his SALT Academy is up for the NGO of the Year accolade. And just around the corner, his new Crown team will begin their Hun Sen Cup and Metfone C-League season. The last two weeks have been pretty frantic for the newly-appointed coach in trying to knit together a brand new line-up. Trials for new faces was a success in that a handful of players have joined the club, but now the hard work begins in earnest, to gel the new arrivals and the existing players into a team unit, capable of offering up a challenge expected of one of the country's very best clubs. With two French-Khmer players already signed up, Sam was pleased to add a third, Dani Kouch, to his team roster before heading for Russia. A member of the Khmer-Europe team that toured here and Thailand recently, alongwith his teammates Thierry Bin and Boris Kok, Dani impressed the Crown coach during the recent trials and has now put pen to paper for the forthcoming season. Born in Nantes of Cambodian parents, 22-year-old Dani's previous experience at full-back or in midfield has been with Le Roche Vendee, FC Erde Atlantic, FC Montaigu and Nantes Mellinet, as well as playing futsal to a high level including trials for the French U-21 Futsal team. Sam's view of his new signing: "He's small, but aggressive and with excellent technique and close ball control (courtesy of his futsal experience), with the ability to read the game and change its rhythm. He's a great addition to our midfield options." Crown will continue their pre-season preparation, which will include two weeks in Vietnam, with Bouy Dary responsible for training in Sam's absence for the next few days.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Football is FUN

Keeping your eye on the ball when heading
More pictures from this afternoon's Festival of Football at Phnom Penh Crown's RSN Stadium. It was great to see so many children from the surrounding area coming along to join in the fun, both boys and girls. This is one of Crown's goals, to engage the local community, to make them feel part of the football club and to become players or fans of the future. In the future, the Crown players and staff intend to make regular visits to local schools to involve them in skills training and to generate enthusiasm and passion for the game. There's nothing better than playing the game to fall in love with it. We'll also host similar events to this afternoon's festival and join other community activities to raise the club's profile.
Cambodia's Sos Suhana helps with passing skills

The perfect header from one of the youngest boys

How to approach the ball when shooting

Crown defender Vi Lika passing on heading tips

A small knock on his ankle, as this youngster gets attention from the physio

Some of the girls waiting their turn

Each team had a Crown Academy boy as their team leader

The Crown Academy boys get instructions from coach Bouy Dary

The Cambodia Girls U-15s joined in with the fun

Passionate about football

Good dribbling skills from this young girl
It doesn't get much better than watching 180 kids enjoying themselves, learning new skills, making new friends and we hope cementing their love for the game of football. You'd expect that from young boys wouldn't you, but to see so many girls joining in with such enthusiasm and sheer gusto made it all the more satisfying. These are the footballers of tomorrow and Phnom Penh Crown's players and staff should feel very positive after their first Festival of Football was so well received this afternoon at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. This is second nature to Crown's new head coach Sam Schweingruber, who's been involved in similar initiatives in Battambang for the past six years, but it was all new to the whole of the Crown first-team squad and the Academy boys, alongside the girls from the Cambodia U-15 team, each of whom had roles to play and responsibilities to help and encourage the younger children. With everyone divided into small groups, with a mix of boys and girls in each grouping, they rotated around a series of ten game stations which included heading, dribbling, shooting, passing and mini-5-a-side games, with the focus on learning with fun. The mix of boys and girls worked really well, with some of the girls showing skills the boys never expected to see, as well as determination to do their best. It was inspiring to see individual youngsters testing themselves and achieving things they might never have thought possible before today. We even spotted a couple of boys who did so well, they will test for the Crown Academy at the next intake. But the main focus was on having fun, trying something new and exciting, and making friends. That was definitely achieved, despite it being a very hot afternoon, so regular water-breaks were in order and one or two children got knocks that had to be treated by the physio. Crown president Rithy Samnang watched on as the first of his club's community activity events went like clockwork. Crown are dedicated to incorporating such events into their fan and community engagement plans for the future, building relationships with the local population, getting the club's personnel to participate and encouraging young children to be passionate about football. 
Heading practice for another youngster

One team of all ages waiting for the action to begin

The Crown 1st Team get their instructions from the coaching staff

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Looking in

Looking down on Sam Schweingruber's pre-match instructions
A few more photos from this afternoon and Phnom Penh Crown's successful first warm-up outing of the new season, a 4-1 win against new C-League faces Asia Euro University at the RSN Stadium.
Another view of the pre-match team-talk

Pre-game happy slapping for the Crown squad

The Asia Euro University team line-up

Fun 5-a-side games followed the main event

Crown kick-off

PPCFC starting XI. Back LtoR: Borey, Thierry, Rady, Pheng, Sothy, Srin. Front: Da, Seiha, Suhana, Phearun, Boris - click to enlarge
It was the first outing for Phnom Penh Crown's new-look line-up of youngsters under coach Sam Schweingruber at Crown's RSN Stadium this afternoon and it went according to expectations, with Crown securing a 4-1 success against the Metfone C-League's newest additions, Asia Euro University. Though Crown hosted a glut of new faces amongst the 23 players given game-time by the coach during the match, they dominated possession in the first half and went in at the interval, two goals to the good. Khim Borey, twice, and Boris Kok had blasted opportunities over the crossbar before Hong Pheng smashed in the opening goal on 26 minutes, after Borey had weaved some magic on the right flank to set him up. Sos Suhana should've made it two a few minutes later, before Ouk Sothy finished off a neat one-two with Borey six minutes before the break. It was a deserved lead. Borey and Suhana combined nicely just after the restart, only for the latter to roll his shot wide of the mark, and then Borey set up Thierry Bin, but the newcomer miscued his shot fifteen yards out. Schweingruber began to ring the personnel changes and by twenty minutes into the second half, ten new faces had been introduced. One of them, Leng Makara took advantage on 69 minutes when he calmly flicked his touch past the AEU keeper after Ly Morslim had set him up from Chhom Pisa's cross. Makara was denied by the AEU stopper a minute later with Morslim blasting the loose ball over the top from an angle. AEU pulled a goal back with ten minutes of the game remaining, but Makara netted his second, just two minutes later, heading in at the far post from a Mart Hasan flick-on. Hasan himself should've added another, but leaned back as he shot and the ball cleared the goal-frame.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha (Ary 46 (Chamrouen 74)), Da (Lika 52), Phearun (Seyha 52), Rady (Kano 65), Srin (Dara 65), Sothy (Pisa 56), Boris (Sopri 72), Suhana (Morslim 65), Pheng (Ravy 65), Borey (Makara 52), Thierry (Hasan 65).
The two French-Khmer players, Thierry and Boris, were given a good run out with the latter looking assured in midfield, whilst Thierry was starved of sufficient ball but showed battling qualities to get into the game. Two trialists, Res Ravy and Mat Sopri, were also given twenty minutes or so. The only squad member not on show was Kouch Sokumpheak, who continues his rehabilitation from his knee ligament injury. After the match, the Crown squad then joined the Academy boys and the Cambodia U-15 Girls national team, in Phnom Penh preparing for their upcoming visit to Singapore, in a series of fun five-a-side games.
New face Thierry Bin shapes up to strike this free-kick against AEU

PPCFC coach Sam Schweingruber explains his half-time plans

Friday, October 26, 2012

Heading to oblivion

I am scratching my head, trying to understand exactly where the football federation of Cambodia are heading. The word, oblivion, springs to mind. There's been such a long list of blunders, inept decisions and hair-brained schemes in the last few years but I think today they finally outdid themselves with the announcement that they are turning their back on international football. Other decisions beggar belief, such as bringing forward the league season by 3 months without consulting anyone, but to effectively disband the senior national team for the whole of next year, quite simply means they have lost touch with reality, and certainly the respect of every football fan on the terraces. The news came out today that the federation, announced by their spokesman May Tola, have 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. With only the SEA Games, which is an Under-23 tournament, on the official calendar for 2013, that means the senior Cambodia national team have no competitive matches next year. It's actually a repeat of the year leading up to the recent AFF Suzuki Cup disaster in Laos, as the national team failed to play an international match during the previous twelve months. They may as well put the national team into hibernation and throw away the key. With this one decision, they have undermined every Cambodian player who has dreams of wearing the national team shirt with pride, as well as every football fan who hopes that the next international game will see the Cambodian team reverse their abysmal record.

The official reasoning behind the decision is 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. There is no mention of why the funds provided by FIFA towards the new football center, the sponsorship money from Metfone for the league competition as well as a myriad of other sponsorship deals, is not sufficient for the FFC to manage their finances, in such a way that allows the national team to fulfill even their most basic commitments. The lack of grassroots and youth development by the federation has been painfully obvious, so a commitment to that sounds laudable, but not at the expense of disbanding the national team. The national team is the pinnacle of football in any country - take that away and you leave a void that will be difficult to recover from. The response from online football fans is one of disbelief, an emotion I share. They have suffered in silence whilst the federation have overseen a slump in fortunes that reached an all-time low under South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon. The horror show continued in Laos a couple of weeks ago under the now-departed Hok Sochetra. The fans were looking forward to raising their spirits with an incoming new coach, but without any international matches to play, there's no reason to employ anyone, anytime soon. That in itself is a damning indictment of the federation.

The future certainly looks bleak. The SEA Games are at the end of 2013 in Myanmar. For Cambodia's U-23 team. For the senior national team, the next edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers is in 2014, whilst the next World Cup qualification competition is in 2015. We have no idea what the federation's plans are, as they rarely speak in public, let alone share their strategic plans for the future. It's a closed shop. They are a law unto themselves. They make decisions unilaterally, usually announce them at the last minute, and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces. In this instance, they have swiped the carpet from under the feet of every football fan in the country, without any reasoning that holds water. I fear for the game of football in Cambodia if this situation continues.

Crown meet AEU students

The first opportunity to see the host of new faces at Phnom Penh Crown has just been arranged. A warm-up match against Asia Euro University will be played at 2pm this Sunday (28 Oct) at the club's RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. It's very early in Crown's pre-season preparation but the recent bombshell that the Hun Sen Cup and the C-League are being brought forward has got every club scrambling around to get some playing time, despite the fact that the players have only just reported back for fitness sessions. Crown are working at the gym every morning then on the training field each afternoon in order to get the players into good shape ahead of the new season. The announcement of the new playing schedules by the federation, without any consultation with the clubs at all, came as a shock to all. AEU will be one of the C-League's newest teams when the action begins on 1 January. The students were beaten 1-0 by the Senate Secretariat team in the Division A1 championships in September, with both teams gaining promotion to the Metfone C-League for the coming season. AEU are based in Phnom Penh and have met Crown on five previous occasions, all friendly matches, with Crown winning all five.

Phnom Penh Crown have also announced another new face to their playing squad for the coming season, as they continue to look to the future with younger talent. This time its 17-year-old right winger Ly Morslim, nicknamed Mab, who previously starred for his high school, Tep Pranam in Kompong Speu, and for his province team, Kandal. Born in Por Touch village in Ponhea Leu, Kandal, he joined his local team Reaksmey Sampov Meas two years ago. He impressed head coach Sam Schweingruber at the recent open trials to earn himself a contract with Crown and is definitely one for the future.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Successful trialists

Mart Hasan, one of the new faces at PPCFC - click to enlarge
The recently completed open trials at Phnom Penh Crown allowed new coach Sam Schweingruber to run the rule over some of the country's untapped talent. He was suitably impressed by five Cambodian trialists who have been offered, and have agreed, contracts with the club. The five young players are as follows:
Mart Hasan, a 22-year-old striker who has been on the fringes of the Cambodian national team over the past year, whilst with Prek Pra Keila. He joined his home town team Prek Pra when he was sixteen years old and studying at Chbar Ampov High School. He's a confident young man who was courted by other clubs, including Preah Khan, where he spent a month training before deciding his future lay with Crown.
Seventeen year old Chhom Pisa is nicknamed Lion by his friends and was born in 13 Makara village, Prek Preah Sdach, Battambang, where he played for his high school, Net Yang and his provincial team for the last couple of years. He prefers to use his battling qualities in a midfield role and says he is very happy to join such a professional club.   
Chea Dara, aged 20, is the second of three Battambang natives to join Crown from the trials. Dara comes from Ang village in Ou Char, Battambang and attended Samdech Euv High School, where he played his football, going onto join the provincial team, who won the Division A2 championship against Stung Treng earlier this year. He is a central defender, his nickname is Chhruy and he hopes Crown can go onto win honours next season with his help.
The third product of Battambang is another 20-year-old defender, Mak Phearun, who joined the SALT Academy at fifteen as well as playing for Net Yang High School and the Battambang province team for the past four years. Born in Oukjea village in the city, he will help to coach the Crown Academy boys, having been a coach with SALT under Sam Schweingruber's guidance.
Completing a trio of 20-year-olds is Tin Kano, who played as a defender for the 2011 Division 1 provincial champions, Kandal. Born in Tuol Ngouk, Ponhea Leu, Kandal, he represented his high school, Tep Pranam in Kompong Speu as well as his home province team. He's currently studying business at Norton University in the capital.

A Brit in India

David Booth is off to India, again
Keeping you in the loop with David Booth, the recently departed Phnom Penh Crown head coach, who has wasted no time in being appointed as coach of Indian League team Salgaocar FC and will move into the hot seat in the 1st week of November. David is no stranger to Indian football having coached both Mahindra United (twice) and Mumbai, as well as being voted India's coach of the year in 2009. His new team Salgaocar won the I-League title in 2011 so they too are no strangers to success, like their new head coach. David had a number of options once it was known he was leaving Crown and I know that he has a penchant for India, having had lots of success there before. Throughout his time at Crown, behind the scenes, he was trying to resolve a contractual dispute with his previous club, Sisaket, with the case going all the way to FIFA, who were fully behind David. A few weeks ago the financial aspects of the case were finally resolved, in David's favour. It was a long-running headache where Sisaket dragged their feet, that the Crown coach couldn't done without. Anyway, he's currently enjoying some holiday-time with his family in Thailand, before he will head out to India soon enough. The I-League season is already underway, with Salgaocar, who are based in the West Indian state of Goa, holding a point from their two games played. Personally, I hope David has a great time back in India, he has a lot of respect and good things to say about Indian football, as I have great respect too for the no-nonsense Yorkshireman from Barnsley.

Engaging the community

Whilst I am still scratching my head at the blase fashion in which the football federation completely mismanage Cambodian football, Phnom Penh Crown are continuing their involvement in grassroots football and youth development. Part of the club's ongoing strategic plans are to actively involve the community as much as possible and with new head coach Sam Schweingruber on board, that will happen sooner rather than later. In fact, the club is pitching in straightaway with a Festival of Football on Monday 29th October for children, both boys and girls, aged between 8-12. The afternoon (2-5pm) festival will take place on a public holiday and all the nearby schools have been invited to join the festivities at Crown's RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. The idea is to welcome anyone that wants to play, they are looking for around 200 kids to come along, and that there will be skill and game stations which the children rotate around in random teams. A combination of fun and football. The Crown first-team squad will be taking part, they'll be in charge of the skill and game stations, whilst the Cambodian U-15 Girls national team squad will be there too, to help things run smoothly. It promises to be a great day out for everyone concerned, with the focus purely on having fun with football. This is just one type of community activity event that Crown will incorporate into their fan and community engagement plans for the future, building foundations with the local population and encouraging young children to be as passionate about football as we are.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Federation folly

It's all kicking-off today. Not only do we have the Hun Sen Cup dates and the news that Phnom Penh Crown have signed their second French-Khmer import, Boris Kok, but the football federation have also sent through the fixtures for the new Metfone C-League. And blow me down with a feather, they've gone and brought forward the football season by nearly 3 months. Without any consultation with the clubs at all. Just because they can. I am completely non-plussed. The federation treat Cambodian football like its personal plaything, to do with as they please. There has been no statement to anyone as to why the season has been shifted forward, simply that it has, so get on with it. It would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous. The first half of the new season's campaign will take place between 1 January and 10 March. The second round will then begin 19 March and end of 15 June 2013 with the play-off final. To add another less-than-amusing twist, the midweek games have been shunted forward to Tuesdays, so for the opening match on Tuesday 1 January, Phnom Penh Crown will meet BBU. Work that one out. If that wasn't bad enough, all midweek games will be played at the appalling Army Stadium, which is one of the worst pitches in the country. With the Hun Sen Cup matches taking place between 20 December and 16 February, that means clubs will have overlapping league and cup games crammed into the beginning of their season.

The full fixtures for PPCFC are as follows:
First Round:
Tue 1 Jan BBU - 3pm (@ Army Stadium)
Tue 8 Jan National Police - 3pm (@ Army Stadium)
Sun 20 Jan Naga - 2.30pm
Sun 27 Jan Senate - 4.30pm
Sun 3 Feb Army - 2.30pm
Sat 9 Feb Boeung Ket - 2.30pm
Sat 23 Feb Preah Khan Reach - 2.30pm
Sat 2 Mar AEU - 4.30pm
Sat 9 Mar Kirivong - 4.30pm

Second Round:
Tue 19 Mar BBU - 3pm (@ Army Stadium)
Tue 26 Mar National Police - 3pm (@ Army Stadium)
Sun 7 Apr Naga - 2.30pm
Sun 28 Apr Senate - 4.30pm
Sun 5 May Army - 2.30pm
Sat 11 May Boeung Ket - 2.30pm
Sat 18 May Preah Khan Reach - 2.30pm
Sat 25 May AEU - 4.30pm
Sat 1 Jun Kirivong - 4.30pm
Play-offs begin 8 June. Final on 15 June.

Boris on the roster

Boris Kok in the colours of FC Toul
Take 2. Phnom Penh Crown have signed up their second French-Khmer player in as many days with the addition of 21-year-old offensive midfielder Boris Kok, another player who featured in the recent Khmer-Europe touring party, and who also came over with the Khmer-French team in November 2010. Boris successfully trialled with Crown last week and was snapped up by head coach Sam Schweingruber who commented; "Boris has impressed during the try out with his advanced understanding of the game, commitment to work hard and shown his leadership potential which will make him an important player for PPCFC… he will be coming in for extra training shifts next week to become match fit as he's not trained regularly for the last few months." Though born in Nancy, his parents hail from Kompong Cham and Battambang. He began playing youth football with Tomblaine before continuing his youth development at AS Nancy Lorraine, Jarville JF, US Vandoeuvre, FC Toul and Nancy Olympic. Whilst at high school, his team won the French championships and they went onto represent France in the Schools World Cup in Chile. Boris had this to say; "I want to have a better understanding of football here in Cambodia. The conditions here are very different. The weather of course, but also the infrastructure and the game itself. I want to bring what I've learned in France and gain more experience in very challenging conditions. I hope to be successful with Crown and possibly get a chance to defend the honour of the Cambodian national team."

Commonsense prevails

Brief details of the upcoming Hun Sen Cup have just been released by the football federation. The Hun Sen Cup, which represents the only knock-out competition for Cambodian clubs both inside and outside the Metfone C-League, will begin a month earlier this time around. The group games will be held in the provinces between 3-11 December and then the competition moves to Phnom Penh, will include the regional group winners and teams from the C-League, as it did last year, with matches being played between 20 December and the final on Saturday 16 February. A far better spacing of games than was experienced in the cup at the start of this year. You may recall that the top eight teams in last year's C-League met the eight qualifiers from the five regional groups and the FFC managed to squeeze 32 matches into twelve days of competition. Which was ridiculous. Commonsense has prevailed this time around. No word on the start date of the Metfone C-League as yet.

Monday, October 22, 2012

All smiles for the cameras

Thierry Bin and coach Sam Schweingruber shake hands
A few more photos from this afternoon's arrival at the Phnom Penh International Airport of Thierry Bin, Phnom Penh Crown's newest signing, all the way from Paris.
Time to show off Thierry Bin's new number 9 jersey

CNC reporter Phal Sokpheary asks the questions

Thierry Bin at the airport this afternoon

Thierry Bin looks to his coach for inspiration

More questions for Thierry and Sam

Time to head for a shower and some well-earned rest after a long flight from Paris

Thierry flies in

Thierry Bin, PPCFC's new number 9
Phnom Penh Crown's newest signing, Thierry Bin, arrived from Paris, via Kuala Lumpur and walked straight into the full glare of the television cameras on his arrival at the city's International Airport. Welcomed by Crown's new head coach Sam Schweingruber and club officials, Thierry was quickly put in front of the cameras from no less than half a dozen television channels sending their cameramen - CTN, Hang Meas, CNC, TV3, TV5, TV9 and Bayon - with the coach fielding the initial series of questions. Speaking in fluent Khmer, Sam responded: "I signed Thierry because of his technique and his understanding of the game, plus his experience of working in a professional environment. I want him to help our many young players to understand more about professional football and to help take us to the next level. He will help us to create the right environment and to be more professional - though we aren't sure of winning trophies right away, we will certainly be a strong team. He has a 1 year contract but we will look to extend that fairly soon if he becomes the key player we believe he is." He then added; "We are looking at two other Khmer-French players, we are interested in them but we haven't signed them yet." The questions were then directed at Thierry, who replied in a mix of French and Khmer. "I chose Phnom Penh Crown because its the best project overall, I was impressed with what the club want to do, not just the 1st team but the overall club development. The coach was the one who talked to me at length, I trust him and he made me want to join the club....I want to win games and help the club win the championship. My personal goal is to play well for Crown and go onto play for the Cambodia national team....I want to say thank you to the supporters and people who made the Khmer-Europe trip possible. I am excited about playing in Cambodia and for Phnom Penh Crown." It was a good start to the 21-year-old's career with Crown, which will begin with a flourish with his first training session at 8am on Tuesday morning. The player has a good pedigree, having been a junior with a top academy at RC Strasbourg, during which time he represented the French U-16 national team. He went onto play at Bretigny, FC Saint-Jean-le-Blanc and Aubervilliers before making the switch to the country of his parent's birth, after a successful showing whilst on tour with the Khmer-Europe team a couple of months ago.
Thierry Bin and coach Sam Schweingruber hold his number 9 jersey

Seven TV stations covered the arrival of Thierry Bin at the airport this afternoon

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sochetra walks away

Hok Sochetra realises he's bitten off more than he can chew
Hok Sochetra has fallen on his sword. He has seen the writing on the wall and has resigned as head coach of the Cambodia national team, citing his own inexperience in the role. And that takes guts. I salute him for his decision. He could've stayed on - cor blimey, the last man in the job, Lee Tae-Hoon, stayed on way past his sell-by date - as Sochetra was the federation's choice as head coach so presumably they were prepared to back him, and take Cambodia into the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers early next year, but he's taken what in many respects is the tougher decision to get out now. The performances and results of the Cambodian team at the recent AFF Suzuki Cup, Sochetra's first serious competition in charge, were pretty much a disaster. Losing to Myanmar was to be expected but to fail against Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste was a bitter pill to swallow, and the manner of the defeats made it even less palatable. Sochetra simply wasn't ready for the top job and he's man enough to accept that. Until a few months ago he was a youth coach at Preah Khan Reach and number three in the Cambodian U-22s coaching set-up, and then in one quick blink of an eye he was elevated to head coach of the Cambodian senior team, with his A-licence AFC coaching badge as his sole qualification for the role. It was too much too soon and anyone with a footballing braincell could see that. The job is an almost impossible task for any coach unless they have suitable hard-earned experience in the role, preferably as a national team coach, who is strong enough to lead from the front and to whip the federation and the game itself, into far better shape. The slide needs to be arrested, and quickly, before Cambodia find themselves even further down the pecking order in Asian football. Sochetra has made a good decision, for himself and for Cambodia football, and for that he deserves credit. We should never forget that he knows where the net is - he's the country's leading goalscorer of all time with 42 goals in 64 national team games - and no-one can take that away from him. Now, he needs to cut his coaching teeth in domestic club football, show what he's capable of and come back in the future, when he's ready and qualified for another crack at the top job.

Demi-god Bojan

Bojan Hodak can do no wrong in Kelantan. Pic: ZM Images
It's pretty nigh impossible for Bojan Hodak's star to shine any brighter right now. The Croatian coach yesterday led his Kelantan team to an historic domestic treble in Malaysia, by winning the Malaysia Cup in extra time with a 3-2 win over the Armed Forces. It follows on the back of his earlier successes this season in winning both the Malaysia Super League and their FA Cup. He can do no more on the domestic front and has been elevated to demi-god status by the vociferous Kelantan fans. Hodak was in charge at Phnom Penh Crown for half of the 2011 season before he left for a spell as assistant coach at Shandong in China, arriving in Kelantan in March. However, not everything he touches turns to gold, as his team were knocked out of the AFC Cup by Iraq's Abril in the quarter-finals over two legs. But I'm sure that's a mere blip he will be looking to overturn when next season comes around.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thierry chooses Crown

Thierry Bin joins PPCFC
Phnom Penh Crown have been busy this week. Three days of open trials have occupied the attentions of head coach Sam Schweingruber and his coaching staff, but he still found time to agree to the release of four more players from last season's playing squad, and to waste no time in capturing a new face, that will, he hopes, light up the Metfone C-League next season. His name is Thierry Bin, or Bin Thierry, as the Khmers put the surname first. The son of Battambang-born Khmer parents, he was born in Paris and has been playing in France all of his life, he's 21 years old, but starred on the recent visit of the European Khmer team, and will now try his luck in Cambodia. He was being courted by Boeung Ket and Kirivong but decided on Crown as his final destination. He will make the move to Phnom Penh from Paris this weekend and arrives here on Monday. The reaction from football fans has been very positive, especially after he caught the imagination whilst playing on the Khmer-Europe XI tour a couple of months ago, scoring from a direct free-kick against Crown in particular, which will be remembered by many. As a youngster, he was at the RC Strasbourg academy and played for the Paris District U-14s and the France U-16 national team before spells at FC Saint-Jean-Le-Blanc and Aubervilliers. He's a natural left-footed midfield player who can also play up front. As for the players released by the club, and announced today, they include current national team defender Tieng Tiny, who's been with the club for the past 4 years and is one of the most experienced players in the country. Also on their way out are Chan Dara, another former national team defender, and midfielders Chhun Sovanna and Koem Sophanal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conference call

PPCFC president Rithy Samnang addresses the assembled press corps
It's been a week since Phnom Penh Crown held their press conference to announce the installation of Sam Schweingruber as their new head coach. The Swiss national has been in Taiwan for a few days with one of his girls from the SALT Academy programme that he's been in charge of for the past six years, attending a conference on promoting the rights of young girls in Asia. At the end of this month he'll be heading to the prestigious Peace & Sport Awards 2012 in Sochi in Russia, where SALT are shortlisted for the NGO of the Year. In the meantime, starting tomorrow, Crown will hold three days of open trials for potential new recruits, where Sam and his coaching team will be running the rule over a group of hopefuls with dreams of joining the Crown squad for the coming season. You may recall that nine players were selected from similar open trials last season and most of them went onto play at some point in the Metfone C-League season. 855 Media Group, owners of the 855 Sport & Lifestyle Magazine, were at last week's press conference with their camera in hand, as these photos show.
The top table with coach (Sam Schweingruber), president (Rithy Samnang) and press officer (Andy Brouwer)

Head coach Sam Schweingruber listens to the question

The new PPCFC coach answers in fluent Khmer

PPCFC's press officer (right) asks for more questions

The coach waiting to offer up his view of the future at PPCFC

Rithy Samnang responds to a question with the press officer nearby

The new head coach with his staff. LtoR: Bouy Dary, Sam Schweingruber, Prak Vanny, Kao Kiry