With an injury room full of key players and a policy not to sign foreign players, the National Defence Ministry have struggled to compete this season
National Defence Ministry manager Op Sam An (centre, white shirt) shouts intructions to his players from the dugout during their CPL match against Khemara Keila Saturday.
Army team plagued by injury
The National Defence Ministry team (MND), popularly known as "Army", is feeling the pressure to perform with the key squad members plagued by injury.
Noted for their fluid passing game, MND are currently languishing in eighth out of 10 teams, with 13 points from 12 games, although a nine-point gap separates them from the drop zone. With only six rounds remaining, the Army side face a titanic struggle to make it into the Super 4, with fourth-placed Naga Corp five points ahead.
According to the assistant coach Long Rithea, who spoke on behalf of head coach Oup Som An, the club has been hit hard by the loss of players such as leading goalscorer Khim Borey, fellow forwards Um Kompheak and To Vanthan, and defensive midfielder Nhem Piseth. "This problem has affected our game plan, and we have been trying to find a solution by introducing other players," said Long Rihtea said just moments after his team fell to Khemara Keila by a lone goal last Saturday. "We hope to improve further as the league progresses."
The team has registered the maximum 30 players allowed by the Football Federation, but all are under 23 years of age with many representing the national team: nine players in the under-23 team, and six players in the under-19 team. MND is the only Cambodian Premier League team without a foreign player, which many soccer pundits have blamed for the team's poor showing this season. Coach Long Rithea stated that it's the decision of the club's management to install a policy of not signing foreign players. "They [the management] want to develop the local players," Long Rithea remarked.
However, the assistant coach, who played of the Army team from 1995-2005, noted a lack of physicality and experience due to the youthfulness of the squad. "We have assembled players since 2006, and most are very young ... so they are [still] learning," he said.
Long Rithea is realistic that the club can squeeze into the top four by the end of the season and, having played the top teams already, they are looking to capitalise on the weaknesses of teams lower down the table in their remaining fixtures.
MND have lost all three of their games in the second half of the season, 1-3 to Phnom Penh Crown July 11, 0-2 to Preah Khan Reach July 18 and 0-1 to Khemara Keila last Saturday. They face second from bottom Post Tel this Sunday at 2pm.
Khemara Keila's Adeleke Eleshin (right) has moved to play in the Thai Premier League after two years in the CPL.
Eleshin packs his boots for Thailand
Khemara Keila defender Adeleke Eleshin has signed for Thailand club Bangkok Glass for an undisclosed amount. The Nigerian-born defender, who won the 2008 CPL season and 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup with Phnom Penh Crown before joining Khemara Keila earlier this season, finally got his clearance from the club on Monday to leave. Eleshin will be joining fellow compatriot Gbenga Ajayi at the club currently second in the Thai Premier League (TPL), which entered its second round last Sunday.
"I am delighted to be moving to Thailand," said Eleshin. "With the experience I have [from] playing for Phnom Penh Crown and Khemara Keila, I hope to do well."
The lanky defender, who also can play in midfield, was originally signed by Thai Ports Authority, but has been loaned to Bangkok Glass for the rest of the TPL season, after which he will return to Thai Port.
Ironically, Eleshin will come up against his former club Phnom Penh Crown next month when Bangkok Glass play them in the quarterfinals of the Singapore Cup. First leg is slated for August 26 with the second leg on September 2.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)