Friday, February 19, 2010

Broken record

The bib-wearers in action, man-handling a concerned Ulsan player onto their stretcher in the recent friendly against Cambodia (pic courtesy
I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. Stop the bib-wearers grabbing injured players at Cambodian football matches before it's too late and someone gets seriously injured. I've said it before and I'll say it again until I'm blue in the face. I know I don't often talk much sense, but even I can see it's an accident waiting to happen. Sadly, it was prevalent in the SEA Games in Laos as well, as I reported here. There seems to be an edict issued to all referees that when a player goes down injured, they automatically call on the stretcher-bearers who invariably arrive at the player's side before the physio, and man-handle him onto the stretcher before any initial assessment of the injury is made. This happens at all Cambodian games played at Olympic Stadium but was also in place at the SEA Games I watched in Laos in December. Soon, these unqualified bib-wearers will aggravate a broken leg or a ruptured cruciate ligament but by then it will be too late. In an attempt to speed up the game, you cannot play roulette with a player's health. At least allow the physio (= man carrying a wet sponge) the opportunity to ask the player if he's okay. Only then should the four bib-wearers each grab a leg or arm and hoist the player onto their stretcher, preferably all going in the same direction when they leave the pitch! It really is farcical and stupid. Stop it, now.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Press talk

My match report from Saturday's international friendly in today's Phnom Penh Post. It's online here.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Round up from yesterday

The two teams and VIPs line-up before yesterday's game
Here are a few photos to round off yesterday's friendly international match at Olympic Stadium, which Cambodia lost 1-nil to Ulsan University from South Korea. Crowd favourite Nov Soseila was subbed after just six minutes of yesterday's game when he suffered an ankle injury, and was replaced by PPC's Chan Rithy, who has been training in Thailand in recent weeks. Soseila had an ice pack on the injury for the rest of the game and will do well to recover for next week's Hun Sen Cup matches. Om Thavrak partnered Tieng Tiny at the center of defence after Sok Rithy and Prak Mony Udom failed to turn up for training on Thursday and were dropped from the squad. The two subs not used yesterday were keeper Samreth Seiha and Chan Dara. Oh, and Sun Sovannarith, the U23 skipper, has changed the spelling of his name. His new passport shows his name as Sun Sovannrithy.
Kuoch Sokumpheak
will fly out to Indonesia on Monday, accompanied by national assistant coach Bouy Dary, and will spend the next four or five days undergoing a trial for an unnamed Super League club side. The Super League is approaching its half-way break and they have a transfer window opening in February, so they are inviting players for trials around about now. They are allowed 3 foreigners plus 2 non-Indo Asian players in the team. If Sokumpheak, 22, who has remained fiercely loyal to his Khemara Keila team in recent years, is successful, his wages could be up to ten times his current salary. He is without doubt the best homegrown player in Cambodia at the moment and has the type of character that would make him a perfect ambassador for Cambodian football if given the chance. The ISL's growing reputation is attracting some of the best talent across Asia right now and is 'the' league to be in.
Keo Sokngorn, with ball, faced by Pheak Rady in the warm-up
High kicking for the Cambodian starting line-up before the match
The world's press (joke) watch the VIP intro's prior to the game. I counted half a dozen tv cameras.
The Ulsan University team all visited the same hairdresser before kick-off
The Cambodian bench moments before the game starts
Game over, time for a mini inquest with the Cambodian team listening to the coaching staff

Labels: ,

Back to basics

Referee Sreng Hao Dy at least kept his eyes open for the pre-match toss-up. Also keeping a close watch is the 4th official, who switched off later in the game.
I'm on a rant. And yes it's referees again. This time the man in the middle of yesterday's international friendly between Cambodia and Ulsan University. Mr Sreng Hao Dy was the man charged with officiating the game and on the whole he did okay-ish. At least he got the toss-up right. He was a bit petty, handing out two yellow cards for time-wasting in the 1st half and for getting in the way of a keeper's throw out, but when some juicy tackles were flying in from both sides in the second half, he kept his cards in his pocket. However, he fell flat on his arse on the 62nd minute when he booked Ulsan's You Joo Hun for a crap tackle on Sun Sovannrithy. What he failed to realize was that he had booked the same player after 14 minutes for a similar tackle on Chan Rithy. Now I know that all the Korean team sported the same bowl-shaped haircut so individual identification was hard at close quarters but surely he could hear me shouting from the stand that it was the player's 2nd booking. Everyone else did. But no, he obviously can't read his own scribble and blew his whistle to restart the game. It was 3 minutes later that a linesman finally grabbed his attention, pointed out his error and Sreng Hao Dy brandished the red card with a flourish. Incredibly embarrassing for the referee and in my view the 4th official (Thong Chankethya), who is supposed to be the back-up for the match officials, but he too failed to notice the error. In fact he was too busy sorting out a substitution for Ulsan, who had noticed the referee's mistake and wanted to get You Joo Hun off the pitch pronto. They sneakily recalled their sub once the referee had woken up. To be frank it's simply not good enough. This was an international match, and whilst the Cambodian match officials can get away with an error like that in the CPL, getting the basics so wrong in an international game is horribly embarrassing for all concerned. If they want to be taken seriously, they really have got to step up to the mark and act professionally. I'm still scratching my head that match referee Khoun Vireak allowed Phnom Penh Crown to walk off the pitch in the Super 4 play-offs last year and then restarted the match thirty minutes later. Refereeing standards in Cambodia must improve.


Positive in defeat

Cambodia's starting XI: (back row, LtoR): Tiny, Rady, Yaty, Sokngorn, Sovannrithy, Thavrak, (front row): Narith, Sokumpheak, Soseila, Borey, Chhaya.
South Korea have a worthy reputation when it comes to football and World Cup qualification and as we saw in yesterday's friendly match at Olympic Stadium between the Cambodian national team and Korean collegiate side Ulsan University, their strength in depth is pretty impressive. The team that faced Cambodia yesterday don't even play in the top two professional leagues in South Korea and yet they gave an assured performance to beat Cambodia's best 1-0. Okay, a draw would've been a fair result, both sides created a few chances and the only goal came from a wicked deflection, but it's a reminder that Cambodia has some way to go before they can match the best that Asia can offer. For national coach Scott O'Donell, it's all part of the learning process. "I like to win, I wasn't happy that we lost but there were some positive performances. We've still got a lot of work to do in our attacking third - selecting the right options and having the confidence to shoot - but I was happy with the 2nd half performance, the effort was outstanding and the attitude was good. We used the man advantage until the final third, but they defended well, they were well organized like most Korean teams are. I would've liked a result but you never get what you deserve in football. It was a great experience for the players to be up against bigger, stronger boys. Hopefully we'll learn from that."
It could've been a very different story if Kuoch Sokumpheak hadn't rolled his shot wide of the post from 12 yards in the 2nd minute. Five minutes later, the impressive Lee Dong Kun struck a drive which took a looping deflection off the shoulder of Tieng Tiny, leaving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal completely flat-footed for the opening goal. The college outfit looked dangerous going forward with incisive passing and Kun struck the foot of the post on 15 minutes. Yaty came out well to block a shot from the Ulsan skipper Lee Sang Gi on 26 minutes after Kun had carved open the opportunity as Cambodia found it hard to get into the game. They did up their effort just before half-time but Keo Sokngorn and Sokumpheak couldn't find a way past Yang Jin Ung in the Ulsan goal.
A more determined Cambodia came out for the second half and Chan Rithy struck the crossbar with a thumping drive within a minute of the restart. Their bright start received a boost when Yoo Joo Hun was dismissed for a 2nd bookable offense even though the referee failed to notice he'd booked the same player twice, until his linesman pointed it out to him. Very embarrassing for the man in the middle, Sreng Hao Dy. Cambodia pressed with Khim Borey shooting just over and Sokumpheak sending a header skidding wide when he found himself unmarked ten yards out. The game got a bit juicy as both teams gave no quarter and the tackles came flying in thick and fast. On 82 minutes Cambodia's best chance went begging. Sokumpheak fed Sokngorn who drove the ball goalwards where keeper Ung got a touch, the ball struck Tieng Tiny a yard out and agonisingly looped over the bar. Despite their pressing, Cambodia couldn't find an equalizer and the collegiate team recorded their hard-earned success. The match attendance was 5,000.
Although this one-off game didn't bring Cambodia the win they'd hoped for, it was a rare opportunity for the team to get together, train together, and play together and with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualification on the horizon in October, this is exactly the type of international experience that Scott O'Donell wants his team to have on a much more regular basis. The forthcoming Hun Sen Cup matches and the start of the CPL season will be upon us in no time, so it's vital that the powers that be produce a constructive program of international matches with October at the forefront of their thinking, and quickly.
The Cambodian line-up: Yaty, Rady, Sovannrithy (Chanbunrith 81), Tiny, Thavrak, Narith (Chanthan 76), Borey (Sothearith 87), Sokngorn, Soseila (Rithy 6, (Kumpheak 75)), Chhaya, Sokumpheak (capt).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (10) leads out the Cambodia national team in red
Before the kick-off. LtoR: Nov Soseila, Sou Yaty and Kuoch Sokumpheak
LtoR: San Narith, Keo Sokngorn, Khim Borey and Chan Chhaya
LtoR: Om Thavrak, Sun Sovannrithy, Tieng Tiny, Pheak Rady
Cambodia capt Kuoch Sokumpheak with Ulsan's Lee Sang Gi and the match officials
Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell (right) and his assistant Bouy Dary face the tv cameras after the match

Labels: ,

Cambodia go down

Cambodia's captain Kuoch Sokumpheak, who will fly to Indonesia on Monday
Two big stories came out from Saturday's international friendly at Olympic Stadium. Cambodia began slowly, conceded a wickedly deflected goal and despite upping their game after the interval, couldn't pull it back and went down 1-0 against the Ulsan University touring team from South Korea, who were no slouches. After the game, Cambodia's national coach Scott O'Donell confirmed that his skipper for the day, Kuoch Sokumpheak will spend the next week on trial at an unnamed professional club in Indonesia, with a view to impressing enough to earn a contract for the 2nd half of the Indonesian Super League season. Sokumpheak is widely regarded as the best of the homegrown talent in Cambodia and if successful, the Khemara Keila striker would be a great ambassador for his country. More on the international game later today.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Press talk

Today's Phnom Penh Post carries my preview of tomorrow's Cambodian national football team's friendly match against Ulsan University. Read the article online here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

O'Donell's view

Scott O'Donell, Cambodia's national football coach
I talked to Cambodia's national football coach Scott O'Donell at lunchtime today to get his thoughts on Saturday's international friendly encounter between his Cambodian national squad and a visiting unknown quantity, in the form of South Korean collegiate team Ulsan University. The game will be played at the Olympic Stadium from 3pm, is being televised live and has been arranged through the national team's links with Korean-owned telecommunications partner, KTC. For the life of me I can't find out anything at all about Ulsan University, though the industrial city of Ulsan has two other professional clubs that play in the K-League and National Leagues, whilst University football appears to be a feeder into these competitions. Scott admitted he knew as little as me. "I know nothing at all about the opposition. They arrived Wednesday, trained that afternoon, have a squad of 22 players and faced Preah Khan Reach on Thursday [whom they beat 3-1]. But it's a good opportunity to get the national team together and will be a good experience to play against a South Korean team, as they are normally well organized and bigger players than our own. I will play the same formation, 4-4-2, as I have before."

In selecting his squad for this one-off international friendly, Scott has kept faith with the core of the Under-23 team that performed in the recent SEA Games and bolstered it with some familiar and experienced faces. Returning to the international fold are the Naga Corp trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Bunchanrith and Pok Chanthan, as well as Phnom Penh Crown's tricky left winger Chan Rithy. The 20-man squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the past four days and will train on the Olympic pitch on Friday. "I wanted to retain the core of the Under-23 team from the SEA Games as in my opinion they performed well for me over the last 3-4 months, both in training and in the games. I've added a few senior players who've played with me before and who are players I believe can add valuable experience, on and off the field. However, this is by no means the final squad for the national team." 2010 will be a key year for Cambodian football in the international calendar. "The focus this year will be on the full national team with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October, so I've put a proposal to the Federation to get the players together more regularly for training and more regular international matches as well." Whether his blueprint for the national team comes to fruition remains to be seen, but whatever happens, Scott's preparation for this friendly match won't change from the norm. "I will approach this game as I do every other game. I'm treating the training sessions in exactly the same way. There's no such thing as friendly games. We go out there to win, win everything, try to be competitive and I want the players to go out there and perform. This is a good chance for them to show the Cambodian public what they are capable of. We want to do well and we want to win the game."

All of the Cambodian players have been involved in their club sides' Hun Sen Cup qualifying matches in recent weeks, with Kuoch Sokumpheak on fire for his team, Khemara Keila. Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in their three matches recently, including a 10-goal haul against Arizon, in a match which also saw his sent off. He was the golden boot winner in last season's cup competition. Scott views the Hun Sen Cup as a real positive for his future plans. "My coaching staff will be at all the future Hun Sen Cup games to identify new talent. That's one of the beauties of the competition. There are some teams we've never seen before and we hope there are some good, young, raw players, and if they show the right ability, we can bring them into the national set-up for training. I've already seen some games in the provinces, at Svay Rieng and Kep. Whilst I'm very supportive of having foreign players in the CPL, I think it's a good idea for the Hun Sen Cup to give locals only a chance against provincial teams and let the teams show what they're capable of, without the foreign players involved."

This is the national team's first game of a very important year. October is the pinnacle of the year with a raft of important qualifying games yet there is no schedule or build-up of international friendlies and as yet, we are still in the dark regarding the fixtures for the Cambodian Premier League season and the Super 4 competition, and how that schedule will impact on the national team. Added to that, Scott's one-year contract will expire in May and in my opinion to ensure continuity it would be in everyone's best interests to secure his future for at least the rest of the year. I await developments with a tinge of apprehension.

Labels: ,

20-man squad named

The Cambodian national team face touring side Ulsan University from South Korea is a one-off friendly match at Olympic Stadium this coming Saturday, kick-off at 3pm. Ulsan are playing Preah Khan Reach this afternoon and both matches are being televised on local channel TVK. This is a good opportunity for the national team to re-assemble after their SEA Games exploits and coach Scott O'Donell has included a few experienced faces in his 20-man squad, to supplement the core of the U23 team that lined up in Laos. The squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the last four days in preparation for the match. Incoming faces include left-winger Chan Rithy of PPCrown and the Naga trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith and Pok Chanthan. Just a quick word on one player who is already in red-hot form during the qualifying matches of the Hun Sen Cup - Kuoch Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in three games, including 10 in a match against Arizon. Here's the 20-man squad:
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny (Phnom Penh Crown)
Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith, Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Mony Udom, San Narith
Nov Sokseila, Oum Kumpheak (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Pok Chanthan (Naga Corp)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn, Chan Rithy (PP Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak
(Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)

Labels: ,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Friendly banter

This Saturday the Cambodian national football team will play a friendly against Ulsan University, a team from South Korea who are on a short tour of the region. The game will be played at the Olympic Stadium though I still haven't had confirmation of the kick-off time, even though the game is just a few days away. The Cambodian line-up will be most of the U23 side together with a few overage players, and they began the first of a series of training sessions together earlier this morning. This is a one-off game though most of the players have been in action recently as part of their club sides' qualification for the latter stages of the Hun Sen Cup. The important fixtures for the national team will be later this year, in October, when they will take part in important World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifying matches.
If you've never heard of Ulsan, the Korean city, in the southeast of the country, was built around the corporate base of the multinational Hyundai conglomerate. It hosts the K-League football club Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i (Ulsan Hyundai Tigers) and Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, who play in the National League, and who lost 2-1 to Thailand in a friendly last week. It is South Korea's 7th largest city and the country's industrial heartland. The K-League's season begins at the end of February and most clubs are enjoying pre-season training in warmer climes.
Update: Kick-off time is 3pm on Saturday and the match will be televised live by TVK. On Thursday, the same touring team will play against Preah Khan Reach at Olympic Stadium, with a 3pm start.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Qualifying success

Yesterday was the final round of group qualifying matches for the Hun Sen Cup, which have been held in four locations in the provinces over the past week. It was good to see the teams from the Cambodian Premier League getting out and about to give the provincial teams a crack at toppling them, though the CPL boys all came through to the last 16 with the exception of Post Tel, who had a miserable time in Kep, losing all four games. Two teams from each of the eight groups qualified for the next round to be played in Phnom Penh beginning in two weeks time (30 January). In Battambang, Phnom Penh Crown waltzed through Group A with 4 wins out of four, netting 26 goals and conceding none. In Group B, the National Defence Ministry had to settle for 2nd spot to the Mekong Kampuchea University side. Up in Siem Reap, BBU and Naga go through as group champs, Naga netting 26 goals in just three games. Down in Kep, Koh Kong topped Group F over Wat Phnom (who were called Spark last season), with Kiriviong also grabbing top spot in Group E. And in Svay Rieng, Khemara scored 28 goals withour reply in their 3 games, with Preah Khan also topping their group with ease. Highest score of the round went to Khemara who beat Arizon 15-o.
The last 16 round will take place over the two weekends of 30 January and 6 February. Koh Kong will fancy their chances of a cup upset against National Defence, whilst Mekong Kampuchea University will also be up for their game against Wat Phnom. I would expect the big guns like PPCrown, Naga, Khemara and Preah Khan to proceed with ease. Only Khmer-born players are eligible for the Hun Sen Cup matches this season, which act as a prelude to the CPL, or the Metfone C-League as it'll be called this season.
Footnote: The Cambodian national team coach, Scott O'Donell made a welcome re-appearance on ESPN's football results program tonight to dissect the Barclays Premiership results. Scott had been a regular pundit on the sports channel in the past but has been absent for some time due to his Cambodian U23 involvement.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cup kick-off

I've been trying to tone down the number of football-related posts in recent times after the glut of them during the SEA Games in the last few months. However, I must mention that the preliminary round of the 2010 Hun Sen Cup kicks-off this afternoon, with 8 games taking place in 4 provincial locations across the country. The big boys of the CPL are out in the sticks, with the champions Naga playing in Siem Reap, cup holders Phnom Penh Crown up in Battambang, whilst other matches will be played in Kep and Svay Rieng. The teams in the eight groups will all play each other with the aim of qualifying for the last 16 round which will be played at the National Stadium in Phnom Penh. Naga, PPCrown and Khemara have each lost their coach in the close season, so will have new faces at the helm this time around, whilst Spark FC have changed their name to Wat Phnom. A few players have changed clubs, like national defender Chan Dara, who has left Khemara Keila for Crown, who've also signed babyfaced striker Heng Sokly from Phouchung Neak, but so far the movement of players has been pretty minimal. The Hun Sen Cup only allows Cambodian players to play in the competition this year, so any talk of the foreign players in the team line-ups will wait for a couple of months until we get closer to the CPL season.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 28, 2009

HAGL invests in Cambodia's future

If you weren't aware of it before, make no mistake that the Vietnamese are taking big steps to increase their influence in the sporting arena in both Cambodia and Laos. On my recent visit to Vientiane for the SEA Games, it was obvious to me that Vietnam were using the current inability of Thailand to present any sort of unified front, to step up their presence in Laos and exert a far-reaching influence that is not just confined to sport. The Vietnamese company Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group were the main benefactors by way of a $4 million gift for the construction of the SEA Games athletes' village. They also funded three months of training by the Laos U23 football team in the central highlands province of Gia Lai, as well as paying the salary of the Laos coach Alfred Riedl. Of course, they haven't done it out of the goodness of their own heart - the group have inked commercial deals in Laos that include mining and timber concessions. The Hoang Anh Gia Lai conglomerate have branched out from its original base in rubber plantations in Vietnam's highlands to include interests in real estate, hotels, and other industries. The head of HAGL, Doan Nguyen Duc, known as Bau (Big Boss) Duc, is believed to be the richest man in Vietnam. Hoang Anh is his daughter's name, Gia Lai his modest home base in the highlands.

HAGL's next major sporting investment is geared towards improving Cambodia's national football team. They have pledged $4 million towards the construction of the new national football center to be built in the Bati district of Takeo. They have also offered to help prepare the national team for the Suzuki Cup later next year as well as provide coaches for the country's youth team. Don't forget that HAGL, who operate a football academy in association with Arsenal, were the beaten finalists in the BIDC Cup in Phnom Penh a couple of months ago. At the same time HAGL have expressed their intentions to invest in rubber, mining, and electricity, in addition to their existing iron ore concessions they already have in Cambodia. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours seems to be the order of the day as HAGL and Vietnam continue their expansion plans. The football federation here already have Vietnam-based Metfone on board as one of their main sponsors for the coming season.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the footy wires

The Cambodian national football team have a friendly encounter coming up in January, when they've been booked to play against Ulsan University of South Korea at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday 23 January. The University side are on tour and will face CPL side Preah Khan Reach two days earlier. The fixture is for the national team though it's likely the U23 side will represent Cambodia for this one-off game. This will be an opportunity for the players to enjoy a getogether again after their recent SEA Games adventures, though the main competitive focus for the national team in 2010 will be in October when there are World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifying matches to be played.
The 4th edition of the Hun Sen Cup (aka Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen Cup 2010, for the full mouthful) kicks off in early January with the provincial round-robin prelims across the country that will also include the big boys of the CPL before the last 16 play a knock-out format in Phnom Penh, with the final scheduled for 6 March. The Hun Sen Cup is the taster for the CPL season, and there's talk of only Khmer players being eligible for the competition this time around, to give more homegrown talent the chance to shine.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 21, 2009

A brighter future

This article on football in Cambodia appeared on the website recently, putting a positive spin on where we are today.

Cambodia build for a bright future
Although ranked at the lower echelons of the Asian football pecking order, Cambodia are showing positive indicators for the future of the world game in the South-East Asian nation. A fast-growing national league, historic progress in the women’s game and a raw love for the game make for a promising outlook in the nation wedged between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Next year is set to be critically important for their national team, who face the dual challenge of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Suzuki Cup preliminaries during the latter stages of 2010. Under respected Australian coach Scott O’Donell, the Cambodians are aiming to repeat the success of two years ago, when they qualified for the Suzuki Cup, the South East Asian regional championship.

Young brigade
Earlier this week Cambodia completed their South-East Asian games commitments with O’Donell using the U-23 tournament as the first building block in the next stage of the senior national team’s development. Now in his second spell as national team coach, the 42-year-old - who is the first Australian to coach a foreign national side - is very much focussed on youth. O’Donell intends to fast-track the majority of the U-23 national team to senior level. “My plan is to keep the U-23s together as the national team. Although there will be a few older players, my general idea is to keep the younger boys together and make them the future of the national team,” he told

A lack of international experience is what could prove the undoing of the Cambodians if the experiences of the last fortnight in Laos are any gauge. “Against Thailand we were losing 1-0, having created some great chances, but then conceded two goals in two minutes of injury time, so for that to happen against the favourites meant were couldn’t get back into the game,” said O’Donell, a former Director of Coach Education at the Asian Football Confederation. “It was a similar story against Malaysia. Unless the players get used to playing against good teams and stay focused and concentrated for 90 minutes, then we will get punished. So that is the tough lesson that came out of the tournament for the players. “We have to try and play to our strengths,” O’Donell continued. “We are not big and we need to play in a similar way to the Thais or the Vietnamese, with quick movement of the ball and movement off the ball. I’m trying to implement a style in which the players can use their strengths.

Football passion
The Cambodian Premier League, which features nine clubs from the capital Phnom Penh and one from the Takeo province, has recently received a significant injection with a recent sponsorship, and the league has also boosted in recent times through the addition of a number of international players. “The league is becoming more competitive compared to when I first arrived, when it was very lop-sided," said O'Donell. "This year the league is a lot more competitive, with some foreign players coming in as well.”

Earlier this year, a Cambodian girls U-16 national team made the 1,200-kilometre journey by road to play against Laos and in doing so created a small slice of history as the first female team to represent this Asian nation. The popularity of the game for both genders remains undiminished despite the relative lack of international exposure, and numbers continues to boom at a significant rate. “If you go to the national stadium on any afternoon, there are hundreds and hundreds of children playing football, bare-footed, across all age groups,” says O’Donell. “Football is so popular. We had over 35,000 to see the (U-23) national team play (in a tournament final) in November, and I have never seen that in Cambodia before. If Cambodia can achieve some relative success on the regional stage, then there will be even further growth.”

Labels: ,