H S Manjunath
After 13 weeks of intense competition involving over a thousand boys and girls from 25 community groups, the curtain came down on the ANZ-SALT Football League season in Battambang on Tuesday. The final day’s action threw up a multitude of shocks and surprises in five different age groups.
The newly developed football pitch at Battambang airfield was a hive of activity as a strong holiday crowd turned up to witness a day of non-stop soccer on International Women’s Day.
While the teams involved in the fight for honours went about their serious business, teams eliminated from the competition enjoyed a day out with friendly five-a-side futsal event. The Nido U16 team and Hope School’s U13 side came up trumps in this shorter version of the game.
When Asia Hope and Tschrey took the pitch for the U16 boys final, form pointed to Tschrey with their 4-2 victory during the season. But Asia Hope showed little regard for statistics and deftly turned the tables to win with exactly the same scoreline.
Within minutes they took the lead only to see Tschrey quickly restore parity through the category’s Most Valuable Player Lous Chally. But Asia Hope pulled clear with two goals before half time and then nailed the contest with another strike after resumption to lay their hands on a glittering trophy presented by Battambang Governor Sok Ung.
Tschrey was again at the wrong end of the U16 girls final, this time going down tamely to Komar Rereay 3-1. MVP nominee Yorm Siyan was the star of the show for Komar.
Last season’s U12 champs, Catholics, stretched their winning vein to another title triumph as they mowed down SOS 5-2 in the boys U13 final. The Catholics had won all of their matches during the regular season.
Meanwhile the newly formed Fabba’s team, culled out from FEDA Organisation in Ksat Phuy Commune, proved too strong and wily for SOS, winning their U13 girls final 4-2 on the back of MVP Vai Vanlev’s double strike.
The boys U11 decider was more of a goal-fest as Komar Rereay, led by Golden Boot winner Pteh Panneth’s four-goal haul, hammered ASPECA 10-1 to clinch the division.
As many as 64 teams took part during the regular league season, which was supported by the Indochina Starfish Foundation and sponsored by the ANZ Royal Bank.
The SALT Academy’s Mighty Girls programme introduced in September 2010 was the medium of rivetting attention. The Mighty Girls, having beaten regional women’s teams by huge margins, pitched into the U16 boys category this season with creditable results.
The programme ensures safe lodging, education, football training and leadership opportunities for participants, many of whom are now filling in as coaches for younger players.