Cambodian players outwit the Japanese defense on their way to a 4-2 victory.
Cambodia's national field hockey team defeated Japanese university club Yamoto for
the second year running in a three-match test series at Olympic stadium that wrapped
up February 19.
The mixed team of past and present students from the Leadership Character Development
Institute (LCDI) is the only field hockey team in the country.
LCDI is a locally-established NGO that provides education and skills for disadvantaged
Looking the best on the field has little influence on performance in field hockey
it would seem: watching the Cambodia National Team scramble together for a pre-match
warm-up was not too encouraging for the 100-strong crowd.
A mixture of caps and discolored uniforms, a goalie rolling up his jeans, strapping
on his substitute cricket pads, and two latecomers dragging themselves onto the field
stood in stark contrast to the Japanese players, in freshly pressed red and white
uniforms, stretching with choreographed grace.
Cambodia, however, soon proved a point, and an hour later the crowd was cheering
at the 4-2 final score.
Team member Vu Ngoun-phally, 23, a former student of LCDI, was confident of his team's
performance before the starting whistle blew.
"I have strong belief we are going to beat [the] Japanese team today,"
Ngounphally said he saw some of his friends playing hockey five years ago and wanted
to try it.
"I like it because it's a new sport in Cambodia," he said. "Nobody
knows how to play and I want to be a leader of hockey - a hockey teacher."
Asif Maqsood Rana, 35, a Pakistani national hockey representative, arrived in Cambodia
in 2000 and is responsible for introducing the game of field hockey.
He proudly said the International Hockey Federation granted the Cambodian National
Team membership in November 2004.
Rana has approval from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to introduce hockey
into the public school system, which he hopes will begin in three Phnom Penh schools
"The staff at the Ministry of Sport didn't even know what hockey was, so I had
to draw it, and then they understood," he said.
Rana currently coaches and plays for the Cambodian National Team, which trains every
weekday morning and afternoon.
Up to 65 players, from 15 to 23 years old, make up three different teams. Twenty-five
are women, and Rana selected seven girls and nine boys for the Yamoto test.
Japanese and Pakistani sports companies supplied the hockey equipment.
Rana said he would like the team to participate in the ASEAN games, but in the nearer
future he wants to organize matches with Thailand and Hong Kong.