The Phnom Penh Post Mini Soccer Championship kicks off this Tuesday with ten teams from various corporations facing off on the new astroturf pitch at Kidzcool
Kidzcool founder Eric Delacollette says he wants to give children the possibility to improve their skills on a perfectly flat pitch.
The Smart mobile team practice their close touch skills during a training session on the Kidzcool astroturf pitch Wednesday.
Photos by: Nestle Poell
THIS Tuesday will see the start of the inaugural Phnom Penh Post Mini Soccer Championship hosted by Kidzcool Children and Family Fun Village on Chroy Changvar peninsular, Phnom Penh. Ten teams from local corporations including Smart Mobile, Devenco, Indochina Research, Expat Advisory Services, Total Petrol Stations, Infinity Insurance, Ezecom, KPMG, The Phnom Penh Post and Kidzcool, will do battle against each other in matches spread over the course of three months, building up to finals on June 11 to coincide with the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Four players from each team are allowed on the field at any one time, with one goalkeeper, and games will last 15 minutes each way.
The championship, played on Cambodia’s first ever astroturf pitch, is the brainchild of Kidzcool owner and self-confessed ‘crazy football lover’ Eric Delacollette.
“Sports events are, for the companies, a perfect way to build a team spirit inside and outside the business,” remarks Delacollette, a former Belgian professional footballer.
The corporate competition is really the introduction to the all-weather surface, which the owner hopes will become a leading facility in training young talent in Phnom Penh.
“As we have opened a large children’s playground, my idea was to give children of all levels the possibility to improve their technical skills on a perfectly flat grass pitch,” he said. “Starting in September, I will be launching a mini-soccer school for all kids aged 4-12. I really want to make it professional, meaning that children will train with the same shorts and shirts to give them more confidence and enjoyment from playing games.”
The 24-metre by 16-metre court is surrounded by advertising boards on all sides and is covered with a high metal roof with powerful lights to allow for non-interrupted play in all weathers and at all times.
“It’s nice to play soccer at night again,” noted Expat Advisory Services captain Richie Munro.
Infinity captain Shane Schneider was enthusiastic about the prospect of playing on such a high quality surface. “It will be a fast-paced competition which is exciting,” he expressed. “A small pitch means less space for running and ball control will win games. We will try to keep things simple and control the ball as much as we can.”
Munro at Expat echoed the minimalistic approach. “We have been going over some very basic strategy in training, and we know how we play best. But as far as tactics go we will stick to very simple football.”
Stephen Finch, The Phnom Penh Post captain, voiced concern that his team would be caught too high up the field. “Most of the time in training we’ve had four strikers going forward but much fewer defenders when it comes to getting back,” he stated.
“Playing with the panels is necessary; it means you’ll play with a fifth team mate,” revealed Kidzcool’s Delacollette.
Other teams, however, were more secretive about their gameplans. “We will show our tactics during the matches,” stated KPMG spokesman Chum Socheat.
Indochina Research’s wacky ensemble of colourfully named characters that include the likes of Phyrun the Genius, Unusual Francois, Evil Joel and Gordon the Terrible, are hoping to make a smooth transition from their home turf at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium. Led by their enigmatic coach Billy the Hat, the Indochina warriors are “ready for this unique and most wanted experience, playing on Astroturf in Cambodia”.
Practice makes perfect
Training regimes ahead of the tournament are varied, especially as according to Kidzcool, some teams are playing for fun and some are playing to win.
KPMG’s Socheat said his men felt “honored and excited for our participation in the first ever competition for our team”.
On the other hand, Smart Mobile boast a wealth of match experience, with training and games played every weekend for almost a year. “Our team is quite experienced in full-size soccer, which is quite a different game in terms of tactics and dynamics [to mini soccer],” explains Kirill Mankovsky. “So definitely it will be a challenge, but we are not afraid of challenges.”
Expat Advisory are also looking to benefit from playing regular games of 11-a-side. “We hope our fitness is the winner for us,” states Munro, whilst conceding that “the beer begs to differ”.
The Post skipper Finch was also feeling slightly apprehensive at the prospect of playing four-a-side games in 35-degree heat twice a week, although he admitted his team had been “playing once a week, smoking less and watching a lot more football on television”.
Kidzcool, meanwhile, seem content with preparations which they claimed consisted of nothing but sessions at the nearby Maxine’s (aka Snowy’s) bar.
Despite its competitive nature that could well see some pent up aggression from the office unleashed on opponents, the general spirit of the event seems that of good-hearted exercise and team bonding.
“Be ready to enjoy and to be fair; it’s only a sport and these are friendly meetings,” reminded the organisers.
“Skill is one thing ... but heart and commitment is another. Infinity team members have plenty of both,” declares Schneider, while Munro says the Expat side will wait for the first couple of weeks to play out before “the trash talking can begin”.
Smart Mobile, however, are on the offensive early. “Shiver and tremble!” warns Mankovsky. “We are coming after you!”
Whatever transpires over the coming weeks, all parties seem eager to go out and try their best in what promises to be a hard-fought but thoroughly enjoyable competition, and one that should pave the way for bigger and better things in the future.