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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Soccer on show in the Bayon Challenge

Soccer on show in the Bayon Challenge

WITH the largest showing of local and regional talent since its inception, organizers

of the Bayon Challenge 1996 are hoping for the strongest turnout yet at the Old Stadium

this weekend for their football tournament and charity drive.

In its third year, the two-day compitition has swelled to twelve clubs: two Khmer

teams, two local expat teams and eight teams from the surrounding region. It is a

strong field, compared to the four local teams that showed up for the inaugural event.

"What happened is that a lot of people wanted to come, but they were afraid

of the situation in Cambodia," said Diamil Faye, coordinator for the tournament

and a forward for the local French team Les Nez Pointus (The Pointy Noses).

"This year is OK. The teams know there were no problems last year."

The event is free to the public. Organizers have set up raffles and carnival games

to raise money benefitting a judo-training program for blind children from the Krousar

Tmai school.

"They are going to do their best to get some interesting prizes so people will

play," Faye said of the tournament sponsors, Royal Air Cambodge, Marlboro, Coca-Cola

and Tiger Beer.

On Saturday, the teams will divide into three groups and play three games each, with

the top two teams from each group and the next two best teams advancing to Sunday's

single-elimination play-off round.

The tournament favorites appear to be the Swiss Club from Singapore, the Kampot team

and Les Nez Pointus.

"They're the teams to look out for. The Saigon Saints maybe have a chance,"

said Anthony Alderson, coach of the Bayon Wanderers.

Another dark horse is Athletico de Wanchai, a team from Hong Kong that is new to

the tournament. The truly international competitors this year should provide exciting

and varied play.

"Generally the Khmer teams have more energy, but sometimes they can be over-keen,"

Alderson said. "I don't think they've had quite as much schooling in the etiquette

of the game."

Faye said the presence of talented clubs with Western players will be good experience

for the Khmer teams.

"The Swiss players are tall and play a strong, aggressive game," he said.

"The Cambodian players have very good technique, but they have problems playing

physical."

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