Phnom Penh Crown Leads Cambodian Football By Example
We have always know that great football experience does not necessary mean we have to travel far. Especially after being shown great hospitality at the Arabian Gulf League (UAE), Gojek Traveloka Liga (Indonesia) and Toyota
We have always know that great football experience does not necessary mean we have to travel far. Especially after being shown great hospitality at the Arabian Gulf League (UAE), Gojek Traveloka Liga (Indonesia) and Toyota Thai League (Thailand) this year, we are truly convinced that great football experience is just round the corner.
2 hours of straight flight on Singapore airline, we have arrived comfortably at the capital and the most populous city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Despite the country is an hour behind our body clock, you will not have difficulties in adapting to the slower pace. The city, home to approximately 1.5 million Cambodians is far more advance and in fact, modern than what we have expected. Throughout our 5 days of stay in the metropolitan city, we had absolutely no issue with the WIFI connection, daily meals and even accommodation. Language proved to be a little challenging but most of the people we have met put in effort in communicating with us in English.
We set up our base camp in Doun Penh, also popularly known as the Riverside area, which was situated right along the famous Mekong River. It took us just approximately 30 mins to reach RSN Stadium, the home ground of Phnom Penh Crown FC by car.
Phnom Penh Crown FC, 6 times Cambodian League winner, is the most successful football club in the Kingdom. Apart from having their own training field, Phnom Penh Crown has a very well-maintained 5,000 seater Stadium. Interestingly, both the training field and the actual football field are viewable from the VIP Lounge, which is surrounded by full height glass window, situated at Level-2 of the Stadium. So VIP relaxing at the fully air-conditioned Lounge can catch the live domestic league match or the team’s training from their comfy sofa. The VIP Lounge is also equipped with a full beverage bar too!
Although VIP Lounge is the one and only room at the second tier of RSN Stadium, the basic infrastructure are not lacking in Phnom Penh Crown – a General Office, Storage Room, Gymnasium, Players & Referee’s Changing Rooms, Briefing Room and Dining Room are all located at the ground level of the Stadium. Most of the rooms may not be in the most perfectly furnished condition, the effort by the management to enhance the professionalism at the football club is very obvious.
One great example is their youth football academy. Phnom Penh Crown is the only football club in Cambodia which runs their own football academy. Their youth football development vision started as early as 6 years ago which till today, Cambodia FA (Football Association) does not even have a youth league in place. We were told that the FA is going to start the inaugural youth league at the end of this year and this could prove to be the turning point of Cambodian football. And because of the club’s effort and vision in believing the development of its youth footballers through a proper system, the club is rewarded with most of their youth players being called-up to represent Cambodia at all age-groups.
On the second day of our visit to the Club, we managed to catch up with the owner of the Club, Mr. Oknha Samnang Rithy for a chat. The outspoken owner did not mince his words as he shared his idea of how he intend to change not just the football culture at the club level, but also on the Football Association (FA) level. One of the key topics that he highlighted boldly was his non-tolerance for match-fixing. “I have zero tolerance for football match-fixing. Players in our team who are found with this unacceptable behavior will be severely dealt with. And if the National Team or even FA has any form of misdoing, I will not hesitate to stop all my players from turning out for the team,” Mr. Okhnha Samnang Rithy emphasized.
This trip to Phnom Penh Crown had also presented us with the opportunity to meet up with some of the team’s key players. We did some exclusive interviews with the club’s captain, Shane Booysen, former S.League’s defender, Anthony Aymard and Cambodia National Team’s top striker, Keo Sokpheng.
In particular, Anthony Aymard will be a more familiar name with the Singapore football fans as the Rio Ferdinand look-alike centreback used to turn out for Etoile and Tanjong Pagar United. “Honestly, the standard of S.League is still better than the Cambodian League. For example, the standard of the teams in Singapore are close, almost every team is capable of upsetting each other. As of Cambodian League, there are probably only 4-5 teams at the moment which are of a better level only. However, here (Cambodia) has a better future in terms of football development/improvement,” commented Anthony Aymard when he was asked about the difference between S.League and Cambodian League.
As our football trip almost came to an end, we spent our last evening covering their big match clash with Nagaworld FC at RSN Stadium. As compared to Singapore’s S.League, the turnout of the fans was definitely much better. While smell of the yummy takeout fish balls and grilled chicken pieces permeated the air outside the Stadium, gigantic flags and drumbeats filled the inside of the Stadium. Attendance for the match was considered decent, but we noticed there were no sign of pre-event activity being organized outside the Stadium unlike what we have experienced in the J.League, Thai League or Indonesian League. Many kids were playing at the 2 artificial futsal turfs outside the Stadium and another handful was always crowding around the beverage vehicle.
Moving into the Stadium, there were slightly more than 10 photographers involving in the covering of the big match. However, not many of them were from the mainstream media. And in terms of media coverage, Phnom Penh Crown is undoubtedly one of the best in Cambodia. A Media Company has been engaged by the Club which consists of editors, photographers and videographers to assist with the coverage of the Club’s football activities, The Media Company also take charge of the Club’s social media posting as well.
On the pitch, the domestic league action was really exciting and entertaining. Despite it was a must-win match for the home team in order to move up the table, the home team found themselves falling behind after Nagaworld scored an early goal in the first half. Despite having just returned from the International duty in Vietnam, key striker Keo Sokpheng was instrumental in inspiring the team to level the score late in the game. Eventually, the match ended in a 1-1 draw. With the referee blowing the whistle to signal the end of the hard-fighting match, we have also ended our assignment in Phnom Penh Crown too.
Special thanks to Phnom Penh Crown FC for hosting us. Thank you Penh Crown’s General Manager, Mr. Ikeda Noriaki and SingaCup, Singapore’s biggest International Youth Football Tournament for making this trip possible. Thank you Puma Singapore for the apparels.