Ten teams will vie in total of 90 fixtures over five months for chance to win share of 120 million riels (US$29,150) on offer for success in the 2009 Cambodian Premier League
ARRANGEMENTS for the start of the 2009 Cambodian Premier League were finalised on Saturday morning during a meeting organised by the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium.
Ten teams will compete in this year's competition with each team playing home and away matches against each other team over the next five months.
The 10 teams competing this year are: Naga Corp, Khemara Keila, Phnom Penh Crown FC, National Defense Ministry, Build Bright United, Post Tel Club, Preah Khan Reach, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, Spark FC and Phouchung Neak.
All games will be played at Olympic Stadium in Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday fixtures starting Saturday at 2pm when Kirivong Sok Sen Chey take on Khemara Keila.
Sponsors of this year's league competition include phone company Hello, cable company KTC, telecom company KTH, airport management company SCA and international airline Bangkok Airways. A prize of 50 million riels awaits the league winners, with second place getting 30 million riels, third place 20 million riels, fourth 10 million riels and fifth place 5 million riels. A fair play award of 5 million riels will also be given at the end of the season.
Of the ten teams, Takeo province's Kirivong Sok Sen Chey is the only club not based in Phnom Penh. 2008 Division A1 champions Kampot province were promoted to the CPL but had to withdraw due to financial difficulties.
CPL Fixture Times
All games played at Olympic Stadium – Local time shown Saturday May 2
- Kirivong Sok Sen Chey v Khemara Keila – 2:00pm
- Phnom Penh Crown v National Defense Ministry – 3:45pm
Sunday May 3
- Spark FC v Naga Corp – 2:00pm
- Phouchung Neak v Preah Khan Reach – 3:45pm
Wednesday May 6
- Post Tel Club v Build Bright United – 3:00pm
According to FFC General Secretary Ouk Sethycheat, the league committee decided to reinstate relegated side Phouchung Neak after their strong showing in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup which saw them make the semifinals. Spark FC confirmed their promotion to the top flight after finishing second last year. Khemera Keila, winners of the 2007 Samdech Hun Sen Cup, have returned to their previous namesake after competing in the recent domestic cup as Ranger FC. Kratie province's Mohakrob club have folded after being relegated from the CPL, with players absorbed into other clubs in the league.
Reigning CPL and Samdech Hun Sen Cup champions Phnom Penh Crown are the team to beat and are scheduled to play on the opening day Saturday at 3:45pm against National Defence Ministry. However, this fixture may be postponed as Phnom Penh Crown prepare for a Singapore Cup game on Monday against Singapore club Young Lions at Hougang Stadium, Singapore. Crown have opted out of the AFC President's Cup competition in Kyrgyzstan which would've seen them take on teams from Myanmar, Bhutan and Kyrgyzstan between May 6 and May 10.
Crown manager Makara Be told the Post that his team had acquired three new signings for the upcoming season; French 19-year-old goalkeeper Simon Tratol, Cambodian defender Koy Tha who has been living in France, and 22-year-old Cameroonian defender Marcel Modido. The new recruits have signed a season-long contract with the club.
National Defence Ministry (MND), on the other hand, start their season shrouded in controversy. Five key players including national team goalkeeper Samrith Seiha and national team striker and former club captain Khim Borey have been suspended due to alleged match fixing in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal tie last month against bitter military rivals Phouchung Neak. The navy-affiliated team Phouchung Neak won the game 5-3 on penalties.
MND head coach Op Sam An told the Post that the five players took cash bribes from other teams to lose to Phouchung Neak, although he declined to identify the clubs involved.
"When they played against the navy team, they faked injuries," he said. "I know because I am their trainer. Khim Borey told the people gambling on the game that he would not play, but he did. There are a lot of clubs that want MND to lose."
Op Sam An said that his club would not be keeping their star forward, although he and the other four players would not be allowed to play for other clubs until completion of their contracts, due to end in 2011.
"We will not keep Khim Borey because he sold his honour and in the future he will still sell his honour," said the MND coach. "And we will not pay their salary which includes three meals a day, a sack of rice and US$50 each per month."
Op Sam An noted that his team will struggle to make the top placings in the league as the five suspended individuals will be replaced by less famous players who used to play for other teams.
"We cannot train the new five players to be the best within one year," he said, adding that he thinks his side can beat half of the Premier league teams, including their nemesis Phouchung Neak.
Khim Borey has indicated his desire to join Samdech Hun Sen Cup runnersup Naga Corp, who are offering to buy out his contract. However, Op Sam An - who claims he did not know about the offer as he is only responsible for training of the squad - said that Naga Corp would have to meet with the club's sponsors to talk about a transfer.
"Maybe my club leader will not need the money," he said, referring to MND chief sponsor HE Moeung Samphan, who is Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)