Saturday, December 19, 2009

On a roll

Some of you will be worn out by the number of football-related posts on my blog in recent weeks. I know I am. But it was for a good cause as I tracked at close quarters the Cambodian U23 football team's efforts to bring some SEA Games medals back home. We knew it was going to be a tall order and so it proved. However, the overall Cambodian team that took part in the 25th SEA Games in Laos performed admirably and when competition finished yesterday, they'd accumulated no less than 40 medals - an incredible increase on their previous best in 2007 of 18 medals. The roll of honour included 3 golds, for which the winning athletes will each get a personal monetary award of $6,000, 10 silvers and 27 bronzes. Kudos to all of the Cambodian sportsmen and women who took part in making this SEA Games the country's best-ever. The final medal standings showed Thailand at the top with 86 golds (and 266 medals in total) with Vietnam just 3 golds fewer and Indonesia in third place with 43 golds. Laos, the hosts, grabbed no less than 33 golds. An incredible result for them.
Now, turning away from the SEA Games, I will try and get back to some sense of normalcy with blog postings on books, films, exhibitions, ancient temples and the usual array of goodies that cross my path. Talking of which I've just had an invitation to attend the premiere screening on home soil of the film Same Same But Different at the Cine Lux cinema in Phnom Penh this evening. Shot in 2008 in various locations around Cambodia, its a love story with a twist and all the film's stars will be in attendance. You can find out more about the film here. I'll let you know what I think later. I also had an email today from one of the producer's on the Passport to Asia, a television travel show with American host Samantha Brown, which will be coming to Cambodia for the shooting of an hour-long episode in January. Ms Brown's travel shows are incredibly popular on the Travel Channel in America and this will be another rung on the ladder of opening up the wonders of Cambodia to a wider audience.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

What do I know?

Typical, what do I know about anything, after Malaysia defied all the odds to capture the gold medal in the final of the SEA Games men's football competition this afternoon. In the qualifying games I saw, Malaysia couldn't hold a candle to the Vietnam team but that last-minute win over Thailand obviously boosted their confidence to the point where they felt they could beat anyone. And so it proved. An own goal sealed Vietnam's fate in the last ten minutes in a game I expected them to dominate. The Malaysians, who should've been thrown out of the competition after attacking the referee in their qualifying match against the same opponents, rode their luck and were rewarded with the gold medal after a barren 20 years without SEA Games success. Frankly I'm gutted as Vietnam's exciting team deserved to win the U23 tournament, they were the best team from all the games I saw, but no-one has that divine right and they have to settle for silver. And just to stick the boot in when I'm down, Thailand have pulled ahead in the race for the largest gold medal haul with 84 to Vietnam's 81, with just a handful of medals still to be decided tomorrow, the last day of competition. I think I'll forget about forecasting in future, I'm obviously really crap at it.


Reputation at stake

I stuck my neck out early this morning on international radio to say that Vietnam would beat Thailand in their gold medal haul from the SEA Games in Laos. Last night both countries were neck and neck in their gold medal collection with 61 golds apiece and today is the last full day of competition, with quite a few finals to be competed for. When I say I stuck my neck out, no-one really cares whether I'm right or not but I did put my reputation (do I have a reputation?) on the line for the Radio Australia listeners just before 8am this morning and I'm sure the breakfast news team will be ramming it down my throat if I'm wrong. In a nice way of course. There's a big push by Vietnam to knock Thailand off their SEA Games pedestal this time around, and the Thais are feeling the pressure. Their football team succumbed early on and Vietnam are almost guaranteed to collect the football gold in today's final against Malaysia. Though Thailand have won more medals in total, it's the golds that determine the table standings and it couldn't be any closer going into the final stretch. Great to see Laos collect 25 gold medals this time around, they picked up just five in 2007. The Games have certainly raised their athletes' performances to an all-time high. And congrats to the Cambodian team too. As it stands, we have 34 medals in total, including 3 golds, and that's a massive increase on our 2007 medal tally, despite far fewer individual competitions. Kudos to Radio Australia for giving the SEA Games some wider international recognition too. I've heard today from my pal Phalla that the Vietnamese are flooding even more people into Vientiane for the football final this afternoon. There's not a seat to be had on the flights coming from Saigon and Hanoi and the roads into Laos are packed with cars festooned in Vietnam flags and colours. There simply won't be enough seats in the stadium to accommodate the fanatical Vietnamese supporters.
On the disabled volleyball front, Cambodia have won their 3rd consecutive game, beating India with ease in the WOVD World Cup, after their first-ever win over Slovakia the night before. The Cambodian team, who are hell bent on winning the trophy for the 1st time, play twice today, meeting the favourites Germany at 6pm tonight at the Olympic Stadium, as well as Malaysia at 1.30pm. Oh, and the Slovakian captain who is probably the biggest cry-baby in world sport is Josef Mihlaco, who was yellow-carded in the match against Cambodia for his incessant whining and poor sportsmanship. I remember that he was exactly the same the last time the World Cup was held in Phnom Penh.

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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.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Crime does pay

Here's hoping for a Vietnam success in Thursday's football final
The bad boys of Malaysia have turned the form book on its head by reaching the SEA Games men's football final on Thursday and can say with a snigger, 'crime does pay.' Personally I'd like to wipe that smug look off their face but some might say its sour grapes. Not really, I just don't like to see people getting away with murder and then going onto be winners, or in this case, silver medalists as I hope Vietnam stuff them good and proper in the final. Cambodia were never going to get to the semis, their group was far too difficult and with both finalists coming from it, that's been proven. But Malaysia deserved the book thrown at them for their disgraceful behaviour towards the match officials when they lost to Vietnam in the group match between the two sides. They got off very lightly with just two players getting suspensions for man-handling the Korean referee, verbally assaulting him, throwing water bottles at the officials and all round gutter behaviour. One player was also accused by the referee of punching him but the disciplinary committee felt the case was unproven, which means they chickened out of that one as it would've probably meant a life ban on the player and the SEA Games is all about comradeship, not pointing fingers. Even their team officials couldn't help but complain that the referee incited their team. Give me strength. They were an indisciplined rabble and their officials are no better. As it was, Malaysia lived to play another day and caused the upset of the SEA Games when they beat Thailand in injury time of their final group match, to progress to the semis. Now no-one in Vientiane wanted the Thais to get through but on 2nd thoughts, I wish they'd battered the Malays, but they didn't and Malaysia spanked the behind of the plucky hosts, Laos in tonight's semi-final, winning 3-1 in front of 23,000 screaming Laotians, all hoping for a fairytale success. Vietnam, who will undoubtedly win the football gold medal to placate their success-hungry fans, put paid to the moneybags of Singapore, 4-1, in the other semi-final tonight. I'm hoping for a six-nil drubbing of the Malaysians by the speedy gonzales's of Vietnam just to put them firmly in their place.


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

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

My impressions

So how would I sum up my SEA Games experience, even though its still taking place and there's lots more medals to be won, but I'm back in Phnom Penh, trying to catch it on tv. Well, firstly, it was wonderful to see how much the people of Laos have made it such an important event to them and their country. Everyone is talking about it, it seems nearly everyone is involved in it in some way, and it really seems to have captured the imagination of the whole nation. If they manage to win the football, all hell will break loose. I don't think the country would ever stop celebrating. Not that them winning gold is likely, but it would be something special if it did happen. I found the Lao people in general to be very friendly and most welcoming, as I did when I first visited the country about a year ago. Whilst some of the officials involved in the organization are a pain the ass (but that's the world over), generally the overall plan seems to be working, it just falls down sometimes when you get to the nitty gritty details, as we found with the football team on a couple of occasions. Not being allowed into the stadium for the opening match readily springs to mind. The Games are certainly a great opportunity to mix with other nationalities for the competitors, which is always beneficial. Though from my viewpoint, it would be better if the Cambodian contingent had met each other before they went to Laos, to engender more team spirit amongst the various competitors representing our country. That was certainly lacking. The football team didn't know the petanque team who didn't know the tennis team, and so on. That needs a lot more work by the olympic committee in the future, to build up a national comraderie and support for each other. The lack of live television coverage, because of the fees involved, haven't helped in generating interest in the Games in Cambodia. That too needs addressing, as the interest in other countries such as Laos, obviously, but also Vietnam and Thailand is huge. You wouldn't believe the number of people from Vietnam who are either in Laos right now, or watching it all day long on the tv. They are taking the Games very seriously, whilst most Cambodians probably don't even know they are taking place. A legacy of the Games will be improved sports facilities in Laos, which would be a great benefit if Cambodia were ever to host the Games. Personally I had a good time with the football team, despite the results, we got on well and they treated me like one of their own. I hope they will be able to separate the valuable experiences they've gone through from the disappointing results as many of them are eligible for the Games in two years time and this tournament will make them stronger players for that. My thanks to Scott and the rest of the team for their support during our two weeks together. I enjoyed meeting old friends, making new ones and confirming for myself what a lovely country Laos is. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely.


A last look

Last minute instructions from Scott O'Donell to Lorn Sotheara, who started his first game
Lay Raksmey is getting the benefit of Scott's experience
This is a final look at the Cambodian football team during their SEA Games adventures which have just come to an end. They beat East Timor but lost their group games to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam and failed to qualify, and it pretty much panned out according to the formbook, though apart from the Vietnam game on Friday, the Cambodians gave a good account of themselves throughout. This is their warm-up and moments before they played their last game against Vietnam, where coach Scott O'Donell made some changes to the regular line-up. Scott flew back to Phnom Penh yesterday, on the same flight as myself, and is off to Australia today for a family holiday after spending every day with the players since the beginning of October. It's time for some R&R with his family over Christmas. The players will also have some well-earned time to relax before they report back to training duties with their club teams, ready for the Hun Sen Cup which will begin sometime in January.
Assistant coach Bouy Dary takes the team through their warm-up
Clap hands and stretch, in the pre-match warm up
Lorn Sotheara, Khim Borey and Sok Rithy
Samreth Seiha gets in some shot-stopping practice before the game
San Narith deep in concentration
A last minute team huddle before they enter the pitch
Sun Sovannarith (18), left, waiting to lead out his team
Cambodia getting ready to enter the fray
Khim Borey, Sok Rithy and Tieng Tiny
Khim Borey and Sok Rithy, 'getting their heads right'
Kuoch Sokumpheak and Prak Mony Udom just before kick off

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A load of boules

Gold medalist and SEA Games singles champion, again, Sok Chanmean
Friday morning, before the afternoon football match against Vietnam, I went to join with some of the other Cambodian competitors at the SEA Games and particularly the petanque team, of whom great things are expected. Their court is right next to the Games Village and when I arrived the petanque team - 12 men and 12 women - were all getting their eye in on the practice area. I spoke for quite a while with one of the women's triples team, Oum Chantrea, who spoke very good English. She pointed out all the players for me and gave me some background on the various categories of petanque, or boules as she called it. She also told me she trains for many hours every day, especially in the lead up to the SEA Games, where Cambodia and Thailand are always battling it out for the medals. Though she's on the books of the police force in Phnom Penh, she's travelled widely through Asia with the petanque team and loves her sport and the comraderie with her team. I met the two singles competitors, 2007 gold medalist Sok Chamean, who is the brightest star of the whole team, and ladies national champion Ouk Sreymom, who Chantrea said; 'she looks like a man,' though that didn't stop her in the semi-final I watched, from blitzing her opponent, though she had to later settle for the silver medal in the afternoon final. The team were very vocal in their support for each other and everyone took what vanatge point they could to watch the morning's semi-finals. In the scorching sun, both of the Cambodians marched through to the finals, where Chanmean repeated his 2007 success.
After the semis ended I wandered over to the building where the taekwondo tournament was being held. Though the Cambodian team wasn't due to fight until later that day, I did meet up with some of the team, including the medalists from the day before, brother and sister duo, Sorn Elit and Sorn Davin, who have got to be the tallest Cambodians I've ever met. I also chatted to Ung Chamroeun, my colleague from the Phnom Penh Post, who was darting about covering as many sports as he could, though he was a bit down after his favoured tennis teams were knocked out of the team event at the first hurdle. As I type, Cambodia has 11 medals, 7 in taekwondo and 4 in petanque, with the latter giving us our 2 golds so far.
Ladies singles silver medalist, Ouk Sreymom
Sok Chanmean in serious concentration mode during his semi
The two Cambodian medalists together at the end of their semis
A view of the petanque court next to the Games Village, at the national university complex
A giant of a man and a silver medalist in taekwondo, Sorn Elit
A family to be proud of, Sorn Davin (bronze) and Sorn Elit (silver), both taekwondo medalists
I bumped into Sompong Soleb, the Thailand striker who looks likely to be the tournament's top scorer with 2 hat-tricks, though the Thais are now out
Vietnam boss Henrique Calisto is mobbed by the press after the win over Cambodia
A massive Vietnam flag is paraded before the game, where Vietnam fans outnumbered Cambodians by 1,000 to 1

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A real thrashing

There's no escaping the final score, Cambodia 1 Vietnam 6
Apologies for the delay in providing the run-down on Cambodia's final football match in the SEA Games, which was played on Friday afternoon. In many respects the game and the result - a 6-1 defeat - against Vietnam summed up the team's tournament. Moments of real quality, smart passing and never-say-die commitment but those moments were fleeting by comparison to the skills, quick-feet and deadly finishing displayed by the Vietnam team. Cambodia were never in the hunt against Vietnam, unlike the games against Thailand and Malaysia where they always had a chance. The Viets started strongly and never really let up apart from a couple of brief spells where Cambodia had them on the back foot. Scott O'Donell gave a run-out to Sou Yaty in goal, Lay Raksmey at right-back as well as Lorn Sotheara in the middle of the park and Prak Mony Udom on the right flank. Vietnam needed at least a point to be sure of their place in the semi-finals but they went looking for all three points from the off, though it was Khim Borey who had the first shot, when he fired over the bar from 20 yards. After that it was pretty much one-way traffic as Cambodia back-pedalled and Vietnam pressed. Their captain Pham Thanh Luong cut inside Sun Sovannarith and fired in the first goal on 11 minutes while Sou Yaty got down well to keep out another effort from the same player a few minutes later.
Cambodia rallied on 22 minutes when a great half-volley from Keo Sokngorn looked set for the far corner before the giant Vietnam keeper Bui Tan Truong got his fingertips to it and pushed it wide. Sovannarith put a free kick down the keeper's throat two minutes later and moments after that, Prak Mony Udom raced clear of the Viet defence but dragged his shot wide of the target and that brief flame of Cambodia passion quickly ran its course. Vietnam's stranglehold on the game returned but they didn't cash in until 3 minutes before the break. A corner was headed in unchallenged by Phan Thanh Hung. Halftime 2-nil. Sou Yaty was in the thick of the action early in the 2nd half, distinquishing himself with a double save on 54 mins. Cambodia lost Lorn Sotheara after a clash of heads and whilst he was off getting treatment, Vietnam netted a 3rd. Stretched at the back, Luong scored his 2nd goal on 63 minutes. Two minutes later slack marking allowed Hoang Dinh Tung a free header with his first touch after coming on as a sub.
Khim Borey latched onto a Chhun Sothearath pass, turned neatly and fired it past Truong in the Viet goal for a small consolation on 68 minutes, as Cambodia offered up some resistance. A minute later, Sokngorn's cross to the far post was a whisker away from sub Oum Kumpheak and with a bit more luck, Cambodia would've added another. However, Vietnam weren't finished and on 83 mins Tung added his 2nd after Yaty had saved well from Ngoc Anh. In the last minute the Viets scored their sixth when Tran Manh Dung slotted in with ease with the Cambodian defence at sixes and sevens. It was a thrashing in reality and showed Cambodia the standard they need to achieve to begin to match the best teams in the region. Vietnam now play Singapore in the semis, with Laos meeting Malaysia in the other. The Cambodian players left the ground quickly, heads bowed low as their tournament ended in a 3rd defeat. They team left the Games Village at 7am yesterday for the two-day bus ride back to Phnom Penh, and should arrive sometime this evening.
Cambodia U23 line-up: Yaty, Raksmey, Sovannarith (capt), Tiny, Rithy, Narith (56m Sothearath), Sotheara (63m Kumpheak), PM Udom, Sokngorn (84m Laboravy), Borey, Sokumpheak.
Sun Sovannarith leads out the Cambodian team against Vietnam
The players enter the field at Chao Anouvong stadium in Vientiane
Cambodia are at 'home' and stand to attention for the national anthem
Getting themselves ready for the start. LtoR: Tiny, Rithy, Borey, PM Udom
LtoR: PM Udom, Sokumpheak, Narith, Sokngorn
LtoR: Raksmey, Sotheara, Yaty, Sovannarith (capt)
The Cambodian bench before the gameThe Cambodia starting XI. PM Udom breaks ranks and folds his arms.
The lonely walk back to the dressing room after their 6-1 defeat to Vietnam

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pushed for time

I have very limited time this morning before I return to Phnom Penh, my SEA Games experience over after Cambodia's failure to advance beyond the group stage in men's football. I leave my guesthouse for the airport at 8am courtesy of my friend Phalla, my flight is at 10.20am and I should arrive in Phnom Penh an hour or so later. I'll be sad to leave Laos and the SEA Games especially after enjoying some of the other sports yesterday, but I've had two weeks here and it's been fun, despite the eventual outcome. I had dinner with my two Thai friends Toong and Noina last night at the Spirit House, on the banks of the Mekong River, after they too were left to drown their sorrows, as they'd witnessed Thailand's remarkable exit from the football competition, losing in time added on to Malaysia. Now that was a result I didn't expect, I thought that Thailand were headed for the final, so it's good that the Games have thrown up a shock, rather than going according to plan. More later when I get time on my return to Phnom Penh.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Success and failure

The Cambodia line-up for today's game against Vietnam: LtoR [back] Udom, Narith, Yaty, Tiny, Rithy, Borey. [front] Sotheara, Sokumpheak, Sokngorn, Raksmey, Sovannarith
Cambodia found Vietnam in no mood to dish out the niceties in their final Group A SEA Games match this afternoon at Chao Anouvong. If anyone thought that Vietnam would take it easy on their neighbours then they were mistaken, as they pummeled the Cambodian team into submission, leading 2-0 at halftime and then piling on the agony in the second half, to win 6-1. Cambodia gave their opponents too much room to play in and didn't get in nearly enough tackles, as Vietnam adopted their fast-paced style of football and proved too hot to handle for the Cambodian youngsters. Khim Borey pulled back a consolation goal for Cambodia after Vietnam had netted four without reply but it was too little too late and another couple of goals in the last 7 minutes gave the scoreline that lopsided look. Three defeats and that win over East Timor showed that Cambodia still have some way to go to match the better teams in SEAsia, but they always knew their Group was going to be very difficult, and that's exactly how it turned out. Thailand, who've won the last eight gold medals in SEA Games at mens football won't win this time around after losing late on to Malaysia, 2-1, when they only needed a draw to go through. More from the Cambodia match later.
Earlier in the day I went to the national university complex to give some support to the Cambodian petanque (boules) team and was pleased to see that the men and women's singles competitors were on top of their game. I couldn't stay for the afternoon finals but they won their semi-finals against Laos opponents with room to spare and with some style. Sok Chanmean is already a SEA Games gold medalist from 2007 and showed his class in his semi-final. At the same time, national ladies singles champion Ouk Sreymom disposed of her semi-final opponent with some ease to qualify for the final. The support given to the players by their own Cambodian contingent was noisy, with the petanque squad comprising 12 men and 12 women and all were on the sidelines cheering their colleagues onto victory. I've just heard that Sok Chanmean took the mens singles gold medal but Ouk Sreymom had to settle for the silver in her final, as she did in 2007.
The Cambodian team's pre-match huddle in front of the massed ranks of Vietnam fans
Cambodia's Petanque singles medalists: Sok Chanmean (left) and Ouk Sreymom

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Such a shame

Is it just me or was the shameful goalless draw played out between host nation Laos and Singapore that has just finished, everything that is wrong in international tournament football? The match attracted 20,000 fans and if I was one of them I would've demanded a refund and the referee should've declared the match as a 'no contest.' With both teams level on four points with Myanmar in Group B, they knew that a point apiece would see them both progress to the semi final stage and that’s exactly what they settled for. Laos provided brief glimpses of attacking intent but for the most part were happy for Singapore to pass the ball along their back-line for the whole game. It really was that dire. To be honest, the two captains could've met in the centre circle at the start, shook hands, agreed on a draw and not played the game at all. At least that would've been more upfront and honest. What I watched tonight was not two professional teams giving their all to win a match. The Games committee have to ask themselves why the two final Group B matches didn't kick off at the same time at different venues, rather than allow this complete shambles. Earlier in the day, Myanmar comfortably disposed of Indonesia 3-1 in their final Group B game. The victory put them level on points with Laos and Singapore before the two met knowing exactly what they needed to do. Tomorrow's final two Group A matches will surprisingly begin at the same time at different venues, with Cambodia facing Vietnam at the Chao Anouvong stadium, right around the corner from me. Vietnam only need a point and it would be easy for both teams to copy the Laos v Singapore style of non-competitive football, but I have complete faith that both countries will give it their all to provide a true game of football. Or am I just naive?
My brief article for the Phnom Penh Post on the Laos v Singapore game can be read here.


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.

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Viets in the driving seat

The Laos Women's Magazine team, that interviewed me the other day, in action
Tomorrow afternoon will be the final game of Cambodia's football SEA Games adventures, when they face their near neighbours Vietnam at the Chao Anouvong stadium at 3pm, in the bright sunshine. Scott O'Donell has said he may make one or two changes to the team that lost to Malaysia. Cambodia cannot qualify, but Vietnam can make sure they do if they get at least a point against us. They cannot rely on Thailand beating Malaysia in the other game. Cambodia will be playing for their pride whilst I expect Vietnam to play their usual fast-paced, aggressive style even though relations between the two countries have never been so cordial. Not only did Vietnam sponsor the BIDC Cup but they provided their facilities at Thanh Long for the Cambodian team to train there for six weeks prior to the Games. Vietnamese money is flowing into Cambodia and Laos at a great rate of knots at the moment, their investments and their influence is mushrooming all the time, whilst Thailand's is on the wane. This is reflected in their football too. The support here for the Vietnamese far outstrips that of Thailand, both at the games and on the streets. The Vietnamese have come here to grab the SEA Games by the scruff of the neck and dominate it. They have flooded the place with journalists to report every eye-twitch and the whole of Vietnam is tuning in nightly for sports updates I'm told. Meanwhile, the moneybags of Singapore have their own recovery centre near the Games Village, where the footballers can relax, get a massage, or a hot and cold bath or find something else to pass the time until their next game. Inside the Games Village the relaxation facilities for competitors is practically zero, with no games room and just two tv's per block of athletes.
A look at the Chao Anouvong stadium before the spectators are let in
The lull before the storm at Chao Anouvong stadium, which holds between 5,000 and 10,000. No-one is quite sure.
The stadium is searched by army mine-dector teams before each game
The new national stadium 16kms outside of the city
The scoreboard end at the national stadium
The national stadium should hold 20,000 but the public address announced 40,000 on the opening day of the football!
My vote for the best defender in the SEA Games goes to Thailand's skipper Kiatprawut Sawaeo who spent a year at Man City but couldn't get a work permit


Pounding head

I didn't get up early enough to go and watch the sepak-takraw afterall. My head is pounding this morning and I'd like to get the stitches out sometime this morning. This afternoon's Group B football matches have been moved from just around the corner from me at Chao Anouvong, to the national stadium so that more fans can get to see the Laos v Singapore match. What a pain, it was perfect that I'd get to see two more football matches on my doorstep and then some bright spark moves both matches. Obviously the whole of Laos want to see the football team beat Singapore, but that's not taking into consideration my feelings at all. The problem with games at the national stadium is that I'd have to catch two buses to get out there (its 16kms outside of the city) and the games finish after the last bus returns to town - how's that for SEA Games co-ordination. There's no way I'm giving any custom to the rip-off tuk-tuk merchants, who are an absolute disgrace and run a mafia monopoly on the local transport with their ridiculously exorbitant pricing. As I've said before, there's no such thing as a convenient motodop here in Laos, so unless I want to pay through the nose for a taxi or a tuk-tuk, I'm a bit snookered.
I popped along to Mahosot Hospital just a few minutes ago to have my stitches removed by an obliging nurse. It cost me about $8 for the removal and tablets for my headache. The scar is pretty ugly right now, but with my face, its hard to tell the difference for anyone else!
On the medals board, Cambodia registered their 2nd bronze when 17 year old female Sorn Davin (pictured) got a second taekwondo bronze, in the middleweight division. She's the younger sister of the Cambodian national men's champion Sorn Elit and was in training with the rest of the taekwondo squad in South Korea prior to the Games. In the last SEA Games in Khorat in 2007, Cambodia completed the competition with a medal tally of 2 golds, 5 silver and 11 bronze.