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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sportsmen back on big stage

Sportsmen back on big stage

T HE country will make a big return to the international sporting scene when it sends athletes to compete in the Asian Games to be held in Hiroshima in September, according to a government spokesman.

"The Kingdom will send 14 sportsmen to compete in athletics, badminton, judo, ping-pong and boxing," said Youm Oudom, the Vice Director of the Sports Department of the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Education.

He said: "The Cambodian sportsmen are back again. We'll perhaps be able to get one or two medals, especially in the field of Judo.

"This has been the first time since the end of the 70's that we have had the opportunity to legally represent our country in an international contest."

He explained that Cambodia was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1977 from competing at the Olympic games, and still retains only an IOC observer status.

He added that the country had remained out of the Asian games since 1989 when Vietnam and Laos stopped the SOC government from sending athletes to compete.

Japan, who is organizing the 94 games, invited Cambodia to compete, according to Oudom.

He said: "The Japanese will provide everything for our team from transport to accommodation. They want to support our attempts to reinstate the country in the international community."

While Cambodia will not send a football team to the Asia games, plans are in motion to help the country compete in international competitions.

The president of the National Football Federation of Cambodia Sa Samouth announced that four coaches from Fifa (The International Federation of Football Amateurs) will hold a seminar at the Cambodiana from Sept 14-19.

The seminar is designed to educate Cambodians on official Fifa soccer rules and the latest team management techniques, according to Samouth who manages the national teams.

He said: "Football is the number one sport in Cambodia. This seminar, which is designed to help Cambodia to reintegrate into international football competitions, will hopefully start a new era for us."

He added that the German Embassy will send an international coach, Klaus Ebbighausen, to do a survey on the equipment and players of the nation from Sept 21 to Oct 7.

"After that, we will see and learn what more we can do [to re-enter international competitions]. I hope we are good enough to eventually return to Fifa," said Samouth.

But according to a government official, who sought anonymity, Cambodia still has a long way to go to gain international recognition.

He said: "The first problem is that the athletes haven't got a decent playing field to exercise on because the National Training Center (NTC) is occupied by other public interests.

"The budget to train athletes was to be 7 million riel ($2,100) but was finally cut down to 1 million riel ($400).

"Moreover, each sporting federation was supposed to be given a $1000 grant by the first prime minister Prince Ranariddh who is the president of the National Olympic Committee (NOC). But the money never appeared."

He said that the two organizations, the NOC and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Education, spend all their time arguing over whose responsibility it is to take care of the development of various sports in the country."



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