Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dam concerns

LIFT magazine for Cambodian youth is available in Khmer and English inside the Wednesday edition of the Phnom Penh Post each week. This week was its sports issue and in an interview inside, my blog was selected as one of the best websites for Cambodia sport. And why not? The interview was with sports editor Dan Riley and I write for the PPP every week about football. They've gotta look after their own, afterall.
This isn't a news blog, as I've said before, but two events happened this week which may have implications down the line. The villagers at Kor Muoy, sited at the foot of Preah Vihear mountain and home to a couple of guesthouses available to hardy souls that venture to the far north, have been told they have a month or so before they will be relocated at least 10kms away. They are making way for a car park and museum. If you want to stay overnight at Preah Vihear, take a tent. Further southwest, groundbreaking for two new dams in Koh Kong province have taken place with one of them, on the Tatai River, a source of much consternation when I spent a few nights in the area last year. The knock-on effect of the hydro-electric dams isn't really known and there was a suggestion that the province wouldn't even see the benefit of the electricity being generated. Only time will tell what will happen to the Cardamom Mountains and its environment, which is already under attack from other hydropower construction projects.
Change of plan. I will now spend the next two nights aboard the Jayavarman cruise boat. They asked me if I wanted to stop an extra night, and I bit their hand off. Though maybe its an April Fools Joke?


Monday, February 22, 2010

Press talk

Today's Cambodian football reports in the PPPost
Today's Phnom Penh Post carries my match reports from the weekend Hun Sen Cup ties played at Olympic Stadium. The semi-finals will be played this coming Saturday. Reports here and here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The beat goes on

Sticking with the dance topic, this article by Tim Etchells appeared in the newspaper on Tuesday. Read on.

Cambodia's beat goes on - by Tim Etchells (
Can Cambodia begin to rebuild its shattered cultural heritage? Tim Etchells wonders if the answer lies with a team of Khmer dancers ... and a specially modified laptop.

I've recently returned from two weeks in Cambodia, travelling with 18 other artists, dancers, choreographers and performance-makers at the invitation of Ong Keng Sen's Flying Circus Project. Based in Singapore, Keng Sen's Theatre Works outfit has been running these exchanges – predominantly Asian in focus, but with routes out in all directions – for something like 10 years. The intention varies with each incarnation, but the broad hope is for a two-way artistic exchange between invited and local artists, and between the invited artists themselves. To call this latter group diverse would be an understatement: our trip saw passports from Indonesia, Slovenia, Turkey, South Africa, India, UK, Lebanon, Singapore, USA and Austria, among others, landing on the immigration desk in Phnom Penh.

Highly organised and efficient on one hand, Flying Circus also courts a creative openness that at times borders on chaos. The logic for Keng Sen is that the encounter must have its own energy, that the group itself must conjure something new from the situation. An approach like this takes time and nerve, but it undoubtedly pays off.

Looking back, it's hard to say what made the biggest impression on me. The country itself remains blighted by poverty, and still in recovery from the devastation of the Pol Pot era and subsequent years of civil war and instability. Culturally, there's a determined attempt to recover what the Khmer Rouge tried to wipe out in its brutal five-year drive to Year Zero, which involved – alongside much else – killing intellectuals, artists, teachers and anyone who spoke French. For this reason, there's much talk of archives, of remembering and preserving. Around 300 feature films were made in Cambodia before 1975, of which as few as 30 now survive. They have been gathered in the last five years and preserved along with other film, sound and photographic materials at the Bophana archive in Phnom Penh, our base for half of the workshops.

The situation is equally dire in the performing arts, since only a handful of classical Khmer dancers survived the killing fields. These old masters are now a precious resource, teaching new generations techniques that otherwise would have slipped away for good. Back home in England, I generally run a mile from people attempting to rescue traditional forms; but in Cambodia, the initiative made more sense – the difference, perhaps, between a past that is dying from irrelevance or lack of interest, and one that has only recently survived assassination.

What I sensed in the younger artists and dancers we worked with, though, was a desire to move forwards with the past, and not to retreat into it. These Cambodian twentysomethings are savvy and hungry, and well aware that their country is opening up, and that internationally financed redevelopment and tourism have been following the inflow of NGOs. They know that they'll need new approaches in the arts, and new political voices to meet the challenges ahead.

I asked Keng Sen what he feared the most from his project. We talked about economic and political dangers (artists as the vanguard for property developers) and about the cultural dangers (Cambodians caught in retreading western postmodern art practice). Then we talked about the positives: the meetings, the collisions, the insistence on and the articulation of differences. There was one moment in the workshops that crystallised these possibilities for me. Tarek Atoui, Lebanese sound artist, ran a session with the Khmer participants that involved sounds collected by the dancers played out from a laptop and a complex array of homemade sensors, motion triggers and pressure pads. It was late in the afternoon when the dancers from Amrita Performing Arts, our hosts for half of the project, took to their feet and began to move in and around Atoui's machinery.

What happened was tentative at first, then suddenly too much. It was as if the dancers wanted to play the system, or make music with it, rather than dance with it. My heart sank. Then all at once they turned a corner and were dancing again – the turning wrists and fingers, lowered centres of gravity, eye contact, pantomime pauses and forward rolls all instantly recognisable from Khmer classical forms. They weren't dancing for the electronics, nor were they dancing with them exactly; they were dancing with and against them, entering and refusing, insisting on and moving through. There was tension in the dancing and music that afternoon, just as there should be on occasions of meeting. It was a privilege and an inspiration to be there. [end]

Today's Phnom Penh Post contains an article by Sarah Outhwaite on the Suites performances as part of Dansez Roam! this coming Friday and Saturday. I have reproduced sections of the article below:

The French musician and the Cambodian dancer work together in perfect tandem, playing their instruments of cello and body. Only when they stop for conversation does distance open between their perspectives on the duet. To the musician, classical heritage has been revered to the point of rigidity. To the dancer, having a classical heritage remains a fragile privilege. Dancer Belle Chumvan and cellist Vincent Courtois rehearse their duet, the centrepiece of this Friday's premier Suites at Chenla Theatre.... The show pairs Johann Sebastian Bach's cello suites with dancers for whom the music is entirely fresh... Performer Chumvan has choreographed an extended solo to the second cello suite. This encounter offers exciting possibilities but also reminds her of the delicate nature of her own sacred dance. "I feel the music is sad," Chumvan says. "I start thinking of all the teachers, singers and master artists who died because of Khmer Rouge. Always the experts." Chumvan is one of nine dancers developing personal interpretations of the Bach suites. A group of Amrita performers collaborates with Courtois on the first suite, and a different group choreographs for the third suite. In the final piece Courtois is joined by young musicians who play harmonies to his Bach cello on their traditional instruments.

Contemporary dance often privileges exploration in this way. Chumvan notes how confusing it can become. "Ten teachers give 10 different ideas," she says. "Not like classical with only one way." Chumvan continues to question what "contemporary" means and how strongly her spirit moves toward it. The very teachers she reveres in her Bach choreography have cautioned her against altering traditions so recently recovered. "The master says, you start to do something crazy? You want to kill classical?' says Chumvan. "But if we have something new, we have a new choice." Chumvan continues to ask hard questions as she develops her ideas and synchronicity with Courtois in preparation for the performance. While rehearsing with the cello, Chumvan's movements radiate from the core of Cambodian dance but extend beyond it with sensitive speed and lizard-like clarity. When young Cambodians tell Chumvan they want to emulate her contemporary style, she asks them, "Do you know Khmer dance? First, you should understand who you are." Hearing this, Courtois gives his own perspective. "You can forget your roots if you know them," he says, indicating his heart. For Chumvan, this point has not yet been reached. "Here, everything develops," she reminds us, "and like everything else, culture is still not really grown up."

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Press talk

You can read my report on Saturday's Hun Sen Cup ties online at the Phnom Penh Post later today. Reports.

Labels: ,

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: ,

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: ,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


There's a new 8-page pull-out in the Phnom Penh Post every Wednesday called Lift, and it's a new magazine style insert aimed at young Cambodians. So goodness knows why they asked me for a comment on blogging. What do I know? Anyway, in a story today called Vanguards of the Blogosphere, I get a brief mention, though they forgot to put the link to my blog! The article was in both English and Khmer. Being called a veteran British travel blogger sounds like an old git to me. They've got that right then... here's the article by Tharum Bun.

Vanguards of the Blogosphere

In the past five years, blogging has emerged in Cambodia as a personal publishing tool, enabling people to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression. The Blogosphere in Cambodia is far more active than in neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, thanks in part to a group of five advocate bloggers who held 20 blogging and Web technology workshops in 2007 with funding from the International Republican Institute (IRI). Those workshops, which introduced some 2,000 students from more than 10 universities to the opportunities within the blogosphere, began the formation of a community of bloggers who came together at a 'cloggers' (the word for Cambodian bloggers) summit at Pannasastra University of Cambodia last year. At the conference, which was sponsored by IRI and the Open Institute, hundreds of people shared their experiences trying to write stories that were attractive to Internet audiences. The summit also drew bloggers and social media experts from neighbouring and Western countries.

Blogging is an ideal way to become involved with other young Cambodians looking to make a difference. In countries where freedom of expression is limited in the public domain, blogging has been used as an affordable and convenient tool for exchanging ideas, opinions and a range of views on the news of the day. While blogs offer a unique opportunity for self expression, media experts view blogs as a double-edged sword. Some bloggers may strive to be honest and righteous, but others can use their blogs to spread misinformation or defamatory comments. After being introduced to blogging at a workshop in 2007, Sopheap Chak, a 24-year old former human rights advocate, became interested in the two-way communication tool and the possibility of opening a dialogue to debate social topics, mainly regarding rights and governance. Her online conversations on the Web remain clear and focused, despite warnings and advice from friends. "I still get advice from my friends to please be careful, do not be too outspoken; Cambodia is not the United States or any European country." said Chak Sopheap, currently a student at International University of Japan. In a blog post in May last year, she touched on two alleged corruption issues within the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. "In Cambodia corruption continues partly because the people see it as something 'normal' that most are unable to change. Besides, there is a lack of political commitment to encourage people to speak out against it and hold authorities accountable," wrote Sopheap in May last year, thus setting the stage for a discussion amongst her readers.

Poverty, poor education, and corporate and social responsibility are among the topics that 28 year old Borin Ly frequently comments on. He says that most of his blog posts are inspired by everyday experiences. "I wrote my recent post on food safety because having breakfast with my mother, I started to look at the food and thought: 'Is it healthy?' Then the problem of food safety came into my mind," said Borin Ly, adding that he has heard many complaints from friends about chemicals that are not supposed to be used in food.
Asked whether online dissidents' voices are being tracked by the government, Andy Brouwer, a veteran British travel blogger said, "They are probably off the radar at the moment. The written press is the big thing that seems to be in the spotlight. I'm not sure the authorities have enough media-savvy people to spend time sweeping through the Net, though I could be wrong."
While blogs provide a platform for honest discussion among those with Intenet access, the reality is that less than one third of 1 percent of Cambodians have regular Internet access. Web-based journalism is not being read nearly as much as traditional print media, which has more than 400 registered newspapers. Freedom of speech may be spreading quickly online, but the development of the Kingdom's print and television media must follow if the entire country is going to participate in these discussions.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The future

Today's Phnom Penh Post article
The last of my reports from the adventures of the Cambodian U23 team that competed in the SEA Games is published in the Phnom Penh Post today. It's a round-up piece with national coach Scott O'Donell giving his views on what happened and what needs to happen in the future. Scott will submit a detailed report to the country's football federation of the team's showing at the SEA Games and what he would like to see take place in the future, taking into account the best practice from other nations. Preparation is a key element to any tournament and getting that right is a minefield in itself. One national team for example, Indonesia, sent their squad to Uruguay for months on end to hone their skills but still failed to reach the semi-finals of the SEA Games football competition. They also have a budget set aside for the national team of over $3 million. There is no guarantee for winning whatever the preparations are, you just have a better chance of success if your preparations are right. Some countries like Singapore have their best young stars playing together in league competition and yet Singapore, who gave us a footballing lesson in Phnom Penh a few months ago, failed to reach the SEA Games final too. As I said it's a minefield and Cambodia have had to negotiate a lot of those already just to get where they are today. There is no panacea to becoming a success overnight. It takes time, careful planning and a concerted effort from all sides and that vision of the future is what the Cambodian football federation must address sooner rather than later.
You can read the article online here.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the radio

Anyone listen to Radio Australia? I was on the breakfast programme, Radio Australia Today, this morning, giving my thoughts on the SEA Games to the presenter Phil Kafcaloudes, just before 7.30am. It was just a quick five minutes talking about how the Laos public have embraced the games with gusto, how everyone loves the underdogs like East Timor and how enjoyable it was to attend the games and to see how seriously some countries take them, ie. Vietnam. The presenter loved the fact that Vietnam sent over 300 journalists to cover the event, whilst Cambodia sent just two, both from the Phnom Penh Post. Radio Australia focuses on Asia and the Pacific region and regularly has news items from Cambodia and neighbouring countries.
Much nearer home, at the Olympic Stadium here in Phnom Penh, the WOVD Volleyball World Cup is back in town, after creating such a stir when Cambodia grabbed bronze at the 2007 event. Six teams - Cambodia, Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Malaysia and India - will compete for the cup this time around and matches will begin tomorrow and last through 'til 20 December, though at the moment, I can't find the schedule of games and times. Get along if you can, the standard of play in 2007 was top drawer and I expect no less this time too.
The match report from Friday's Vietnam game is in today's Phnom Penh Post and can be read online here. It's also below.
My article in today's Phnom Penh Post

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home or away

Cambodia 'at home' against Malaysia, face to their right
Cambodia 'away' against Thailand, face to the left for the national anthem
The national anthems of the two competing teams are played before each match and depending on whether you are the designated 'home' or 'away' team will determine which way you turn to face, and respect, both the national anthem and your flag. The flag is actually held on the ground by ball-boys rather than fluttering from a flagpole. It would be far more helpful for my photograph album if the players simply faced forward. Organisers please take note.
One of my pet hates is being played out at every game at this SEA Games. When a player goes down injured, the referees' automatically call on the stretcher-bearers who invariably arrive at the player before the physio, man-handle him onto the stretcher before any initial assessment of the injury is made. This happens at all the CPL games in Phnom Penh too and is basically an accident waiting to happen. The stretcher guys are less qualified to do the job than my pet cat (if I had one) and the day they aggrevate a broken leg or a ruptured cruciate ligament is the day when the football authorities might just wake up to this unacceptable practice. Someone, please stop this nonsense. I've spoken to the head doctor who attends some of the CPL games and he agrees with me 100%. I wish someone would listen before someone suffers.
Two more medals this afternoon, both in taekwondo, which makes 4 in all to-date. This time we went one better and grabbed two silvers for Sorn Eliot (who won a bronze in the last SEA Games in Khorat) and So Naro, in the heavyweight and middleweight sections respectively. Taekwondo is proving to be a fruitful medal sport for the Khmer contingent.
My match report from the Malaysia game is in today's Phnom Penh Post.
Cambodia fail to advance here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Press talk

Yesterday's Phnom Penh Post carried three of my stories.
Cambodian U23s waste chances but win easily here
Victory crucial for Cambodia here
Brief: Stats from SEA Games here.

Congratulations to Cheat Khemara, who collected Cambodia's first medal of the 25th SEA Games with a bronze in the individual Poomsae section of Taekwondo, held at the National University complex. Laos won the silver, Indonesia the gold medal. I don't begin to know what Taekwondo is all about though google tells me that Poomsae are a set sequence of movements that consists of the various fundamental stances, blocks, punches and kicks logically arranged in a meaningful order in response to attacks from multiple imaginary assailants. Whatever it looks like, Cambodia have their first medal on the board. Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen is in Vientiane today to attend the formal opening ceremony of the Games, his first ever appearance at the SEA Games.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thai report

My match report for the Cambodia v Thailand game appeared in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post. Click here to read the article online.

Thai discipline too much for Cambodia in games' opener
Cambodia’s U23s go down 4-0 to Thailand in the SEA Games Group A opener in Vientiane on Friday, with a brace in time added opening an overwhelming gap.
Cambodia's hopes of qualifying from Group A of the Southeast Asian Games U23 football competition were dealt a blow Friday with a 4-0 opening day defeat to Thailand in Vientiane. The damage was done in time added on at the end of the first half, with Thailand capitalising on sloppy defending to score twice and take a 3-0 half time lead. Up until that point, however, Cambodia were matching their experienced opponents closely. Cambodia national coach Scott O’Donell expressed his disappointment of seeing his team concede two before the break. “That was the end of the game after that,” he said. “We’d done so well: 45 minutes and 1-nil down; it was excellent. The boys did really well. We were disciplined but then we conceded two soft goals. We maybe switched off, but the last four minutes weren’t good enough. To be fair we made it easy for them to score. It wasn’t their great play, it was us,” he admitted. “Poor defending and we were careless with our possession. We allowed them to get crosses in, no challenge on the crosses, and when that happens against teams like Thailand, we’ll get punished. That’s the lessons we’ve got to learn. It was always going to be uphill after going in 3-nil down.”

The Cambodian starting 11 was at relatively full strength, missing only the exciting wing play of the recently injured Nov Soseila. Thailand were without key defender Suttinun Phukhom and striker Teerasil Dangda, both of whom were injured, and made five changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Vietnam two days earlier. Cambodia kicked off the game, which began in brilliant sunshine in the compact Chao Anouvong Stadium, in front of a lower-than-expected crowd of 700. It was Cambodia who had the better of the early exchanges, and in the 11th minute their normally reliable marksman Kuoch Sokumpheak was off target with his finishing. He charged down a clearance from Thai captain Kiatprawut Sawaeo, raced into the penalty box but sent his shot skidding across the goalmouth and agonisingly wide. Four minutes later, the Khemara striker took a pass from Chan Chhaya in his stride, but his well-struck drive from 15 yards out was safely gathered by Thai keeper Kawin Thamsatchanan.

Against the run of play, Thailand took the lead in the 16th minute. Adul Lahsoh’s defence-splitting pass sent Anawin Jujeen to the bye-line, and his cross found the head of Sompong Soleb, who made no mistake from 10 yards out. On the half hour, Cambodia keeper Samreth Seiha spread himself to deny Anawin after he’d danced his way past three tackles and into the penalty area. Another Cambodian opportunity went begging five minutes before the interval. A surging run and deep cross by Pheak Rady evaded everyone in the box except Keo Sokngorn, but the teenager leaned back as he blasted his drive over the crossbar from 15 yards. Then disaster struck. In the first minute of added-on time, Arthit Sunthorphit’s left-wing cross was met firmly by Kirati Keawsombut, who rose unchallenged to head past Samreth Seiha. The goalkeeper was equally helpless a minute later as Thailand notched a third. Anawin escaped his marker, and his cross was scooped in by Sompong from the edge of the box. The Cambodians trooped off dejectedly at the halftime whistle, knowing their hard work had been undone in those two final minutes.

After the break, with Cambodia seeking an early breakthrough, it was Thailand who edged further ahead. On 51 minutes, Anawin was again the architect, supplying a cross to Kirati, whose pass to Sompong allowed the striker to claim his hat trick with a deft finish. It was a sweet moment for the replacement striker, having missed three sitters against Vietnam a couple of days earlier. Scott O’Donell sent on fresh legs in Prak Monyoudom and Khounla Boravy just before the hour, and they showed some nice touches but couldn’t penetrate the rock-solid Thai defence. Kuoch sent a header in the arms of the Thai keeper, and Keo did likewise with a 20-yard shot, as Cambodia tried in vain to reduce the deficit.

On 63 minutes, a reckless challenge on Anawin by Cambodia skipper Sun Sovannarith earned a booking, and Thailand a penalty. Arthit’s well-struck spot-kick was superbly pushed aside by Samreth Seiha, and the goalkeeper reacted quickly to block Sunthorphit’s follow-up. The keeper was again called into action three minutes from the end, when another fingertip save denied Sompong a fourth. In time added on, the match ended on a sour note when players from both teams reacted to an incident on the midfield line. In the ensuing free-for-all, Kirati was booked for elbowing Tieng Tiny but the ugly melee was a more a reflection of Cambodia’s frustration with their own inability to match their Thai opponents.
O’Donell condemned his team’s behaviour. “I said to the boys that it’s not acceptable,” stated the coach. “Whatever happened I don’t care, I hate that kind of stuff, and I won’t accept it again.” However, he conceded that his players had all worked hard and tried their best.
“[Kuoch] Sokumpheak’s chances were probably better than their chances,” O’Donell admitted. “But they took theirs, and we didn’t take ours. We’ve got to be smarter. That’s what happens when you play against good teams like Thailand.” Thailand’s coach Steve Darby voiced his satisfaction. “We did our job,” he said. “It wasn’t great, but it was enough. Cambodia were well organized, they worked hard and didn’t make it easy for us. They will be difficult to break down for any team in this group.”

Later Friday, plucky Timor Leste held out for 54 minutes against Vietnam before finally succumbing to a 4-0 defeat in their Group A tie. Midfielder Mai Tien Thanh netted a hat trick, with substitute Phan Thanh Binh claiming the other goal.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ticked off

I'm very angry with my own newspaper, the Phnom Penh Post, for this extract from an article by Ung Chamroeun titled Fans hungry to see success. It bemoans the lack of live television coverage of the SEA Games but then touched on alleged corruption of sports officials, illegal betting on football results, and the apparent throwing of matches. It provided the following quote;
Vann Ly, manager of U23 football team, refuted allegations of corruption in the current squad. “The players will try their best,” he said at a press conference. “If they win, they will get a lot of money. How can they sell the result without thinking about the nation?”
What alleged corruption in the current squad? That's complete bullshit. Someone with an axe to grind suggests that Cambodia's success in the BIDC Cup was fixed and it suddenly becomes a corruption scandal. There is absolutely no basis for this, no facts, no nothing, just someone with a big mouth. This is just the type of negativity and, no better way to put it, shit-stirring that is a cancer in football and sport in general. If there's no story - let's make one up. I'm close to the national team, I've been immersed in football for more than thirty years, and the Cambodia team are not, I repeat not, involved in anything of this nature. I'm extremely disappointed that the Phnom Penh Post should even waste column inches on such bullshit. End of rant.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Preview of today's game

I know its after the event, but my preview article appeared in the Phnom Penh Post today and here it is.

Nov Soseila ruled out of U23s Group A match opener today
Cambodia’s inspirational young winger has been left off the team sheet due to injury for today’s opening SEA Games match against Thailand.

Cambodia's U23 team take on regional archrivals Thailand in their opening Group A match today at 3pm at the Chao Anouvong Stadium in Vientiane, although they will be without their talented winger Nov Soseila. A kick on his right ankle in their final practice match in Vietnam a week ago is still causing him discomfort, and national team coach Scott O’Donell doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks of aggravating the injury, saying: “Seila won’t start. We’ll keep treating him and see what happens.”

His omission is a blow to Cambodia’s attacking options, as Nov Soseila showed how dangerous he can be with his quick feet and ability to take players on, causing mayhem in the final third of the pitch, at the recent BIDC Cup tournament in Phnom Penh. To overcome the loss, it is likely that Chhun Sothearath will get a starting berth in central midfield, with Khim Borey switching to the right. O’Donell has other options at his disposal and will also consider employing wide players Prak Monyoudom or Khuonla Boravy against Thailand, and for their second match Sunday against Timor Leste.

“I’ve been very happy with the training sessions,” O’Donell said. “We’ve been working hard for seven weeks, every day. We’ve been focusing on all aspects of our game, our formation and shape, getting the players tuned into what we want in the game situation. Against [Vietnamese club team] Can Tho we looked sloppy, and we got caught in possession and stopped moving the ball around quickly. So we’ve been working on that in training, getting the players to understand what’s required. We can’t afford to get caught in possession in our defensive third because so many goals get scored from that. I’ve drummed it into the boys that Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia will close us down, so we’ve got to keep the ball moving and doing the simple things well,” the coach said.

O’Donell is upbeat in his assessment of his team. “I’ve got faith in them and I’m sure they will go out there and do the job. If we are well organised and we stay disciplined and, if all the boys play to their capabilities, we can cause an upset. But the players have got to believe it too. We’re not here to make up the numbers. I don’t want us to be the whipping boys any more. I want us to make that next step up. I know the rest of the teams have written us off. If you talk to the rest of the coaches, its all Vietnam and Thailand. That’s good, that’s the way I like it. The boys have to believe in themselves and have faith in each other, because they are all good players. If we give 100 percent, even when things go wrong, we can cause Thailand some trouble.”

The Cambodian players and coaching team watched both of the opening Group A matches at the new national stadium, 17km outside of Vientiane, Wednesday. Malaysia efficiently disposed of East Timor 11-0, while Thailand and Vietnam played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw under floodlights. “It was a good opportunity for us to see the key players, what they are like, particularly for set pieces, because we will allocate players and give them responsibilities,” O’Donell said. “How they play, how they do things, it’s important, but we’ve got to focus on our game. Thailand looked good, particularly in the first half. They played as we expected them to play. They looked solid. They dropped off a bit in the second half, and Vietnam came back quite strongly, as they moved the ball around quickly and caused Thailand some problems. Both teams played good football. I thought it was an entertaining game for the neutral. However I hope the standard of refereeing improves, as it was shocking for both teams.

“Thailand’s strength is their movement off the ball,” added the coach. "Their passing and their movement is something that our boys aren’t used to. It’s something we’ve got to cope with. That’s why it’s even more important that our organisation and our discipline is right, that we keep our shape, and stay nice and compact. Reduce the space they’ve got to play in. If we do that then we’ll make it easier for ourselves, but if we allow ourselves to get stretched and get caught in possession, they’ll cause us problems. Vietnam conceded their goal from a corner that didn’t need to be given away and they got punished for it,” O’Donell said. “We’ve done that a few times, so we’ve got to reduce the number of corners and unnecessary free-kicks we give away, and when we do, we’ve got to make sure we’re disciplined in our marking. If the players work as a unit, we’ll make it hard for them.”

Thailand’s coach is Englishman Steve Darby, a long-time adversary of O’Donell’s. Both were club coaches in Singapore at the same time and have known each other for many years. Darby is now assistant to the national Thailand coach Bryan Robson, who took over after Peter Reid returned to England. He has already predicted that his team will meet Vietnam in the final of the SEA Games competition. Thailand have won the gold medal on the last eight occasions of this biennial tournament, and expectations are high that they’ll repeat their previous successes in Vientiane. Anything less will be regarded as a failure.

In matches between the two countries in SEA Games competition, Thailand have won five and drawn once, with their last meeting in 2007 seeing the Thais trounce Cambodia 8-0. In Teerasil Dangda and Kirati Keawsombut, they have two strikers who are big, strong and mobile and will cause any defence problems, while captain Kiatprawut Saiwaeo is rock solid in the heart of the Thai back four, having previously had trials at English side Manchester City.

On Sunday, Cambodia face the SEA Games minnows East Timor, who were on the wrong end of a record-breaking 11-0 defeat by Malaysia Wednesday. The game will take place at the new national stadium under floodlights, with a 5:45pm kick-off time. “They [Timor Leste] didn’t have much organisation,” O’Donell said. “I thought they were pretty poor to be honest. They were completely outclassed, men against boys. Some of them just arrived this morning, and you have to question their preparation, but I’m sure they’ll get better as the tournament progresses.” This is a must win game for Cambodia if they are to harbour thoughts of progressing to the semi finals as one of the two qualifying teams from Group A. The match will be broadcast live on Thai Channel NBT.
Probable Cambodia line-up:
Samreth Seiha, Pheak Rady, Sun Sovannarith (capt), Tieng Tiny, Sok Rithy, San Narith, Chhun Sothearath, Khim Borey, Keo Sokngorn, Chan Chhaya, Kuoch Sokumpheak.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

3 in one

So you can keep up to date, on-line, with my Phnom Penh Post articles, here's a link to three of my mine that are in today's paper, as well as the articles reprinted below.
U23 spirits high in Vientiane here
O'Donell happy with accommodation in Laos here
Tournament favourites aim for SEA Games final here.

U23 spirits high in Vientiane
The Cambodian U23 national team remain focused and confident ahead of their SEA Games opening match Friday against eight-time gold medalists Thailand.

We are just a day away from the Cambodian U23 national team’s opening match as they fly the flag for their country at the 25th Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane. Football is the first competition to begin at the Games, and the Cambodian players arrived in the Athletes Village Sunday evening, after a tough two-day overland journey from Phnom Penh. Drawn in Group A alongside the heavily fancied Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, and also East Timor, everyone has already written off Cambodia’s chances of progressing. Instead the opening game of Group A, Thailand against Vietnam, is expected to be the composition of the final on December 17. That’s assuming, of course, that Cambodia will roll over and provide the expected easy pickings for the higher-ranked teams, though anyone who witnessed the performance levels of the Cambodian team in the recent BIDC Cup tournament in Phnom Penh may have other ideas, and that includes the players themselves.

Thailand, the SEA Games football champions for the last eight competitions, will provide the opposition in Cambodia’s first game Friday. For an opening match, they don’t come any harder, but there’s a real strength of character and resilience about the Cambodian team under Scott O’Donell’s stewardship, and the players are determined to carry on the high standards they set themselves in the BIDC Cup. Victories over V-Leaguers HAGL (twice) and Laos U23s gave the Cambodian team a huge confidence boost after their first match under O’Donell ended in a 6-0 drubbing by Singapore. Capturing the BIDC Cup in front of 30,000 of their own ecstatic supporters has breathed a sense of purpose and pride into the young Cambodians, and six weeks’ intensive training in Vietnam has only served to cement that collective unity.

Reflecting on their BIDC success, Cambodia’s captain, Sun Sovannarith spoke for his teammates when he said: “I felt so happy that we won and proud that the team’s performance has improved so much. The victory has given us great confidence for the SEA Games.” The scorer of the winning goal in the BIDC Cup final was popular striker Kuoch Sokumpheak, and he too expressed his pleasure. “I was very happy when I scored the winning goal. I felt happy for myself and felt proud for my country. I think the victory lifted the soul of the nation because of our football success.” His strike partner, and one of the youngest players in the squad, Keo Sokngorn was equally upbeat. “For Cambodia to win, it made me so happy that we became champions of the BIDC Cup,” he stated. “All our players played very hard and very well. And it felt good to play in front of so many people at the Olympic Stadium.”

That was then, and this is now as Cambodia prepare to face a Thai team under the direction of Englishman Steve Darby, who is assistant to national team boss Bryan Robson. Expectation is high that the nation will add another SEA Games gold medal to their collection, but try telling that to the Cambodian players. “Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are all good teams but I don’t worry about playing against them,” remarked teenage Keo Sokngorn, who is also the captain of the national U17 team. “All I know is that I will play hard and my best. I want to win.” Kouch Sokumpheak is similarly focused ahead of Friday. “I won’t say we will win, but I will try my best and I really want to score goals against Thailand for my country,” he asserted.

The final word goes to the captain, Sun Sovannarith, who missed the birth of his first child, a girl, on Monday because of his involvement in the SEA Games. “The difference between us and Thailand is that they are big and they understand each other very well, as they play together for a long time,” he noted. “They have more experience and they play in a very good, strong league in Thailand. Win or lose, I don’t know, but I will fight 100 percent for my country until I die.” That sense of passion and determination could just provide an upset to the competition’s hot favourites on Friday.

O'Donell happy with accommodation in Laos

Cambodia U23s coach Scott O’Donell has no complaints about the conditions at the players’ village in Vientiane.

The four group matches that Cambodia will play at the Southeast Asian Games will determine their success or otherwise, but it’s the off-the-field facilities that can be just as important to put the players in the right frame of mind before competition. Scott O’Donell, the Cambodian coach, was in charge of the team for their last SEA Games outing in Khorat, Thailand, in 2007. “The rooms at the Village are a lot better than at the last Games in Khorat,” he noted. “At least we don’t have communal showers and toilets this time around. The Village isn’t fully operational yet because the Games don’t officially open ’til later, but the food’s OK, no complaints on that score, and the accommodation is OK too, and that’s what’s important for us.”

“It would be nice to have something to keep the players occupied in their free time,” he added. “In Khorat we had a games room and Internet. Here we have nothing like that, but it’s the same for every team. At least there’s a medical room, which is good, as some of the boys have been getting some physiotherapy.” The right diet and looking after themselves is a part of the players’ preparation that O’Donell has been keen to stress. “The food is good, a wide variety, and it’s nice,” he reported. “There’s pasta, rice and veggies, and all the boys are getting stuck in. They are starting to realise the importance of their diet, and they get a lot of fruit and veggies here, which is a good thing. I’m happy with it.”

The national coach claimed that, so far, the training facilities have been a mixed bag. “The first training session at the army stadium was fine. The next two at the television facility were absolutely terrible and simply not good enough. And today was perfect. So a mix of good and bad,” he commented as the team ended their first session at the Chao Anouvong Stadium, in central Vientiane where they will play three of their four group matches. The Cambodian team watched both of the football competition's opening games Wednesday and trained for an hour Thursday morning before making their final preparations for their first match against Thailand at 3pm Friday.

Tournament favourites aim for SEA Games final
Regional football powerhouses Thailand and Vietnam drew their opening SEA Games football match 1-1 Wednesday night in Laos.

The pundits’ favourites to reach the final of the Southeast Asian Games football tournament, Vietnam and Thailand, have been given an added financial incentive to do well in the region’s top competition. Sponsors AVG have offered Vietnam’s squad prize money of US$200,000 if they win the gold medal, and half that if they pick up silver. Thailand have also been offered a big cash incentive of $170,000 to repeat their SEA Games successes of previous years. The two teams met in the opening round of matches Wednesday night at the brand new National Stadium, just outside Vientiane. A tense match saw Thailand take the lead in the 70th minute through Kirati Keawsombut, only for Vietnam to grab a last minute equaliser by Hoang Dinh Tung from the penalty spot.

Thailand have won the gold medal on the last eight occasions and are on course to repeat that feat, according to their coach, Englishman Steve Darby. “I have selected the team myself,” he stated. “I know Thailand take the SEA Games seriously, and we have a good squad. We will try to do our best to bring the gold medal back to Thailand. “Our players are excellent and their attitude is excellent. Obviously, Vietnam are strong too. We will play them first and hopefully we play them last. We will go out and try to win every game. That is a magic formula in football. You have to be self-confident and confidence is very important. We want to be confident without arrogance.”

Thailand beat Sri Lanka 2-0 in their final warm-up match before arriving in Laos. “The shape of the team now is very good,” affirmed Darby. “We had some useful warm-up matches and showed good form against Sri Lanka. The team has great potential and have garnered some good experience after playing in the Thai Premier League. “Only the goalkeeper didn’t play in the Thai Premier League last season. But he is a U19 international player. He is a great athlete, a great goalkeeper,” Darby said of Ukrit Wongmeena, who is on the books of Thai champions Muang Thong United. Darby also commented on his squad selection. “Everybody will pick a different team – that is football. Everyone will pick 20 different players. I have to make the decision based on what I think is best, I get paid for that. I listened to leading Thai coaches and international coaches and basically, they are very happy with the squad.” The Thai side is captained by defender Kiatprawut Sawaeo, one of the players who is also in the full national team along with striker Teerasil Dangda. Seven of the squad played in the successful SEA Games team that captured the gold medal in Khorat, Thailand, in 2007, with seven players coming from TPL club Chonburi and four from champions Muang Thong.

Vietnam had arrived at the SEA Games Village a day before everyone else, in order to get themselves settled in and into the right mindset. Their Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto has chosen his squad with this and the next SEA Games in mind, giving a preference to players young enough to compete in both. That has meant a handful of star names will be missing including defender Cao Cuong, a cornerstone in Danang’s V-League success year, as well as talented midfielder Van Khai, who plays for Calisto’s club side, Dong Tam Long An. “In football, there is no place for sentimentality,” said the national coach. “It is very difficult for me to choose and cut players … I wanted to ensure that our younger players have a chance to play and improve at the next SEA Games in two years.…Five of the seven cut players are good enough to join the U23 national team,” he continued. “I feel sorry for them, but we have to obey the rules. They are as good as the chosen players but the youngsters must be given a chance to advance because they are the future of the national team.” In the current Vietnam squad, only three players have previous SEA Games experience.

The match up between Thailand and Vietnam was preceded by two other teams from Group A, Malaysia against the minnows of Timor Leste. Indeed, the Timorese were made to feel very small by a rampant Malaysia that knocked in six in the first half, and five more in the second, to end the game 11-0. No less than eight different names made it on the scoresheet for Malaysia, with Ahmad Fakri Saarani netting a hat trick.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green light

I've just got the green light from my employer - thank you Hanuman - to take up the opportunity offered by the Phnom Penh Post to go to Vientiane in Laos and cover the 25th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in a couple of weeks time. My main focus will be on the Cambodian football team's efforts as they meet some of the strongest teams in the region in their group matches though I will be needed to cover some of the other 18 sports that Cambodia have entered teams for. I feel a little light-headed.
In the Laos SEA Games there will be 28 sport disciplines. Two years ago when the SEA Games were held in Khorat in NE Thailand, there were 44 sports competed for. Cambodia is sending competitors in 19 of the sports and they are archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, judo, karate-do, sepak takraw, wushu, wrestling, taekwondo, shuttlecock, petanque, beach volleyball, table tennis, badminton, tennis, swimming, golf and football. In order to beat their last medal total, Cambodia need to better their Khorat haul of 18 medals, which included two golds (in petanque), five silvers and 11 bronzes.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Press Talk

My match report from the BIDC final in today's Phnom Penh Post. It's now online here.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Press Talk

Match report for Cambodia v Laos
This is my match report from Tuesday's match and Cambodia's win over Laos, that appeared in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post. The match report from last night will appear on Monday, as will the report from Saturday's final. Confused? So am I. It's all about newspaper deadlines. The story is already online here.
I didn't pick a MOTM from last night's Cambodia game as to be honest not one player stood out as having a better game than anyone else. It was that sort of match for the home team. They never really got hold of the ball for more than a few minutes as Vissai NB kept it for long periods and when they did attack, over-eagerness and poor control gave possession away far too easily. It looked like the introduction of Chan Chhaya, Kuoch Sokumpheak and Nov Soseila in the closing minutes might make a difference but it didn't happen. I'm sure Scott will reintroduce all the players that sat on the bench last night for tomorrow's final against HAGL, who will be a different proposition from the team that caved-in on Sunday after leading 2-nil. It all adds up to a spicy encounter. Make sure you tell your friends and they tell their friends to get along to the Olympic Stadium tomorrow. And if you can't make it, watch the game live on the local TV5 channel. Tonight at the Tata restaurant over the Japanese Bridge, is the BIDC Cup's official dinner and I've been invited. At last I seem to made it onto the list of people to be invited to events, usually they forget to invite me. Tomorrow's match will no doubt attract a flood of VIPs, but the FFC have listened to our moans from a couple of months ago and designated a media area in the main stand, so a pat on the back to them for that. They've also upped their game in providing match information and we've been showered with a free bottle of cold water at each game. At this rate we'll have an internet connection in no time. Fat chance. They've even asked the media to select the competition's most valuable player and the best goalkeeper, who'll each get $1,000. It's nice to be asked.
At the post-match press conference last night, Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell had this to say; "I wasn't happy with our first-half performance, we didn't play well and all credit to Ninh Binh they gave us a footballing lesson in how to keep possession. We played better in the second-half but still didn't have enough of a goal threat. Aside from one training session, this was the first time that team have played together and I cannot fault their effort or commitment. I was glad to be able to give all the players in the squad a run-out. I will sit down with my coaches tomorrow and select the team for Saturday. Everyone will be fit for the final except Chhun Sothearath, who has a knee injury. The supporters were great again and I think they understood what we were trying to do tonight in giving all the players the opportunity to play in front of their home fans. I hope they will turn out in their droves for the final on Saturday."

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 6, 2009

Press Talk

Click to enlarge
My article on the Cambodia U23 team in today's Phnom Penh Post. It'll be online later today.
The U23s played their final practice match of their month long training stint in Vietnam on Wednesday night. Although they lost 2-1 to Can Tho, this was another good work-out for the team ahead of the BIDC Cup that will begin this coming Sunday. Keo Sokngorn scored for the U23s, who completed their sixth practice match. The full list of their friendly match results are: Ho Chi Minh City W1-0, Thu Duc Central Sports University L0-1, Dong Nai Bien Hoa W3-2, Ho Chi Minh City U21 D0-0, Can Tho L1-4, Can Tho L1-2. The U23 squad will train this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium and tomorrow at the National Sports Center before they begin their BIDC Cup campaign against HAGL at 6pm on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium. Get along and support the youngsters. Just so you know who will be representing Cambodia, here is the 25-man squad which will be reduced to 20 players tomorrow:
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Peng Bunchhay (Phnom Penh Crown)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny, Peng Panharong (Phnom Penh Crown)
Chan Dara (Khemara Keila)
Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Mony Udom, San Narith, Khuon La Boravy, Keo Kosal
Nov Sokseila, Oum Kumpheak, Lorn Sotheara, To Vann Thann, Ieng Piseth (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Phuong Narong (PP Crown)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn (PP Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak
(Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Press talk

Click to enlarge
My article in today's Phnom Penh Post previewing the BIDC Cup that begins on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium. To read it online, click here.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Press talk

My article in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post on the Cambodian Under-23s ongoing preparation in Vietnam for the BIDC Cup in early November and the SEA Games in Laos in early December. Click here to see it online.
The Cambodian Under-23s played their 3rd practice match on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 with the Ho Chi Minh Under-21 team at The Thanh Long training centre. Coach Scott O'Donell commented on the game; "We dominated the first half creating a lot of chances but could not put them away. The 2nd half was more even but still we had some good chances. I was happy with most aspects of our game but our finishing was poor."
There are no injury worries to report from the squad's training camp just outside Saigon. The team are lining up two more practice matches to round off their month-long stint in Vietnam. The likely opponents are Can Tho, who finished 3rd in the V-League 1st Division last season and just lost out in the play-offs for promotion to the V-League proper. Their new coach is Lu Dinh Tuan, the coach at Ho Chi Minh City last season when they were relegated to the 1st Division. The Cambodian youngsters will return to Phnom Penh on 5 November and have two more training sessions before they compete for the BIDC Cup with an opening game against Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) on 8 November at the Olympic Stadium.
Below are the two new additions to the Cambodian U-23 training squad currently in Vietnam. Both players, Ieng Piseth and To Vann Thann, joined the squad last weekend and both play their football for the Ministry of National Defense team in the CPL.
To Vann Thann (Ministry of National Defense)
Ieng Piseth (Ministry of National Defense)

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh the trauma...

An article today in the Phnom Penh Post by columnist Ken Gadaffi mentions the trauma of last weekend's frosty reception for the media at the CPL Super 4 finals. I say trauma with my tongue firmly in my cheek. Ken's piece details the following:
'Post reporter Andy Brouwer was forced to sit lower down amongst rowdy spectators, making it difficult to view the action and record accurate match notes. To make things worse, a clumsy guard kicked over his drink, mistaking him for a tourist. Other media representatives were also resigned to sit among the crowds, having been asked to vacate their seats in the press box for children of a CPL sponsor, even though numerous chairs were available.'
Storm in a teacup in my view, but yes, the football federation could've acted more professionally and need to consider the media for future events like this, and the international that was played the following day. I don't mind sitting with the smelly riff-raff (wink wink) once in a while but the security guard really did get up my nose. An apology from May Tola, the federation's deputy general secretary, is more than enough to put the matter to rest. "It's very unfortunate for the Federation, and so we take full responsibility of this neglect. Our actions did not show good hospitality to the press, who have been supportive all through the season, especially The Phnom Penh Post coverage of the league. The press box must be respected because the media are so important to us." The CPL and the professionalism of football in Cambodia is in its infancy, so these things will happen. As long as they learn and make provisions in the future, everyone will be happy. Link: PPP.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Press talk

This is my article on Sunday's match between Cambodia Under-23s versus Singapore Under-23s at the Olympic Stadium that appeared in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post. You can read the article online here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Press talk + tickets

CPL play-off reports in the PPPost
Above are my match reports in Monday's Phnom Penh Post following on from last Saturday's first round of Super 4 play-offs in the Cambodian Premier League. Click here to read them online.
Below is my 3-day Angkor pass which I obtained late on Sunday afternoon, so I could watch the sunset for free that day. I was offered a 3-day pass over a week period or for 3 consecutive days. I close the former, and I was happy that the ticket-sellers offered me both options.
The front of my 3-day US$40 Angkor pass, ignore the mugshot
The back of my 3 days in a week pass, with 3 days punched out on the right

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Press Talk

Saturday's football round-up made the back page of today's PPPost
Sunday's games on the inside back page of the PPP
A brief look at Uche Prince Justine, Spark's goal machine
Here are my match reports in today's Phnom Penh Post from the weekend's Cambodian Premier League games, as well as a brief on Spark's marksman Uche Prince Justine. They should be online sometime today.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Press Khmer

Match report in Khmer language - though I'm told they spelt my name, Andy Brouwee!
Match report as per usual, in English
Now for something a little different. Here's my match report from yesterday's Cambodian Premier League match in Khmer, in the Khmer language pull-out section of today's Phnom Penh Post. Oh, and the English version too. It should be online later today.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 31, 2009

Press talk

These are my match reports in today's Phnom Penh Post from the weekend's Cambodian Premier League games. They are online here.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Press talk

These are my match reports in today's Phnom Penh Post from the weekend's Cambodian Premier League games. They should be online later today.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Match facts

These are my match reports in Thursday's Phnom Penh Post from the CPL games played on Wednesday afternoon. 3rd-placed Khemara play again tomorrow, versus Post Tel, whilst the Defense team come up against 4th-placed Naga Corp. Phnom Penh Crown can extend their two-point lead at the top on Sunday when they face Kirivong.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 10, 2009

Match reports

Sunday's double-header at Olympic Stadium
Preah Khan retake top spot in the CPL
These are my match reports from the weekend in today's Phnom Penh Post. They will appear online later today.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 3, 2009

Match reports

Saturday's match reports
Sunday's match report in the PPP
The inside back page of today's Phnom Penh Post has 3 of my match reports from the weekend's feast of Cambodian Premier League football. They should be online later today.

Labels: ,