Hearing the laughable news that the Federation officials had selected Chea Samnang (pictured) as their Metfone C-League Best Player of the Season reminded me that I selected my Best Team XI a few days before and of course the young Preah Khan Reach midfielder was nowhere to be seen. It's not his fault that the FFC have selected him, but absolutely no-one could've seen that coming, when other players have clearly had a much bigger impact, and consistently, on the season that has just finished. The young man, who I'm told is the captain of the national U-19 team, but looks like he should be lining up with the U-13 team, plays as a holding midfield player for PKR and I'm sure has a bright future ahead of him, but to flag him as the season's Best Player is quite simply, a humourless joke. Last season, they selected Keo Sokngorn, which was a much better decision and they appear to have developed a penchant for younger players, ignoring the much clearer claims of individuals like Kouch Sokumpheak, Sun Sopanha, Om Thavrak, Julius Oiboh and Khuon Laboravy. Anyway, back to my Best Team XI for the season. Here it is, for what it's worth, with players selected in their positions. I've viewed about 90% of the matches this season, so this selection is taking that into account. It's quite an attacking line-up with two wide men who have been used regularly as pseudo-strikers this season in Laboravy and Esoh, but in this team they'd have to do their share of back-tracking as well. With Sokumpheak happy to play literally anywhere, interchanging positions is not a problem. With Kumpheak from the Army returning to a regular starting place and doing very well, and Sopanha just shading Chhun Sothearath for a spot in the team, after the Crown skipper had a cracking second half of the season, there's creativity as well. In defence, Obadin has been a rock for Crown this season and with Rithy just pipping Om Thavrak for the position, I've also included two rampaging full-backs who can do damage to any team. Bunchhay's pick as Best Goalkeeper only confirmed my decision to select him over Sou Yaty, after his handling and shot-stopping improved this season. In Julius Oiboh, there would be a riot if I didn't include him, as he's battered defenders all season and been almost impossible to subdue. And my coach, would be David Booth, who else. With his record, this team would fear no-one.
GK: Peng Bunchhay (PPCFC)
DF: Pheak Rady (Army), Odion Obadin (PPCFC), Sok Rithy (PKR) , Sun Sovannrithy (PPCFC)
MF: Omogba Esoh (Naga), Oum Kumpheak (Army), Sun Sopanha (PPCFC), Khuon Laboravy (PKR)
FW: Kouch Sokumpheak (PPCFC), Julius Oiboh (Naga)
Coach: David Booth (PPCFC).
I hear Cambodia's national team coach Lee Tae-Hoon has selected 35 players in his pool for the forthcoming BIDC Cup (at home in October) and SEA Games (in Indonesia in November) competitions. The main aim is the latter, which is an U-23 competition, though the BIDC has been designated U-21, though I understand Cambodia will field an U-23 team. Confused? I am. I haven't seen the names of the 35 so I can't comment on them yet but I did hear that only one name, a striker, is from the Phnom Penh Crown camp. So if I read that right, just 1 name from the C-League champions, the team that won the league title, and it doesn't even include the league's best goalkeeper. Goodness me, I'm gonna have fun with this selection for sure. I wonder how many he's picked from relegated Prek Pra in his 35-man squad. There was a camera crew following the national coach around like a lost puppy dog at the final game of the season on Sunday. I'm told they're from South Korea but someone should tell them they're wasting their time. This is the man who presided over the complete failure of the Cambodian team to progress in three major cup competitions in the last twelve months and yet manages to secure a new 12-month contract, as his reward. Incredible.
The Phnom Penh Post match reports in recent weeks have been pissing me off. There's a definite desire by the Post's football reporter to dumb down Crown's achievements. For example, Crown staged a fabulous recovery yesterday on their way to picking up the championship, yet it was the Naga coach and his team who got the limelight and opening paragraphs in the match report. They finally managed to squeeze in a comment from Crown's successful coach David Booth at the end of the report. To be frank, he really needs to get his head out of his arse. Actually the coverage of the final game and the after-match presentations was piss poor, especially the photographs. It was relegated to the 4th page of sports news, overshadowed by international sport that didn't even include any Barclays football. Very disappointing. In saying that, at least they covered the game,whereby the Cambodia Daily could be printed in another country for all its coverage of local sport. On the subject of Naga Corp, I hear that their all arms and elbows striker Julius Oiboh is off to Thailand to join in the second half of their season. With the Golden Boot award under his arm for his massive 28-goal haul this season, he's certainly left a lasting impression on the C-League. It remains to be seen whether we see him back here in the future.
The top table at the press conference. LtoR: Bouy Dary (PPCFC Academy Head Coach), Rithy Samnang (President PPCFC), Vann Piseth (Tournament General Secretary)
Mark your diaries. If you want to see quality foreign opposition against the cream that Cambodia has to offer at youth (13 and under) age level then the First State Gold Investment Cup is for you. It will take place next weekend (10 & 11 September) at the Phnom Penh Crown FC training headquarters at Tuol Kork, to be known in the future as the RSN Stadium. Crown will host the six teams taking part over the two days of competition, with round robin matches on the Saturday afternoon (kick off is 1pm) and the finals on the Sunday, with the competition final taking place at 11am. The second day will be televised live on the TVK television station throughout Cambodia. Matches will be played at 7-a-side and on a reduced sized pitch and I can promise you goals, goals and lots of action. The Crown Academy boys will be entering two teams (each squad is 12 players strong), the Cambodia U-13 Festival champions, Cambodian Foundation Organization from Kompong Chhnang will also take part, and will face foreign opposition in the form of the International Soccer Academy from Singapore and two teams from Saigon in Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh City FC and Hoa Lu FC. International exposure and experience is a key element of the Crown Academy programme, with the boys having already played in Singapore and Vietnam, but now its time to take them on, on home soil, to see how good we really are. It promises to be spectacular. First State Gold Investment Company are the main sponsor with a host of associate sponsors such as Swensens, who'll feed the boys with ice-cream after the tournament ends, Diamond Hotel, who will house the visiting teams and others such as Canon, ANCO, Gold City Casino, AIR, The Friday Lounge and so on. A press conference at the Crown Sports Bar this morning introduced the tournament with Crown President Rithy Samnang saying; "This is a great opportunity for the boys to gain more experience by playing teams from other countries. They need this experience and tough matches if they want to become the professional footballers of the future. We want this competition to be an annual event in the future." Seven television news cameras were at the press conference including TVK, Bayon, Apsara, CTN and TV5.
The roll-call of tournament sponsors, and the Metfone C-League trophy on display
The walls of the Crown Sports Bar are decorated with massive posters of the PPCFC team
More posters decorate the outside windows of the Crown Sports Bar on Street 200