Phnom Penh Crown are chasing an unprecedented third Samdech Hun Sen Cup title in as many years as the preliminary round of this year’s tournament kicks off
Phnom Penh Crown young hotshot Keo Sokngorn (left) and team manager Be Makara hold up the Samdech Hun Sen Cup after the 2008 final.
Cambodian football heavyweights Phnom Penh Crown are chasing a historic third successive Samdech Hun Sen Cup title at this year’s tournament, with the team eager to put behind the disappointing ending to last year’s domestic season.
“We are working hard to defend our title and we really want to restore our face after finishing in fourth place of Cambodian Premier League 2009,” said Crown manager Be Makara. “However, we recognize that the provincial teams are also preparing well for the tournament.”
Crown have been sent to the Battambang for the Cup’s preliminary round, where they face hosts Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Kampong Chhnang side Rithy Sen in Group A.
Thai coach Apisit Im Amphai has decided to leave the club after two highly successful years, with assistant coach Prak Sovanny temporarily put in his place. “The departure of the coach is one of our problems,” expressed Be Makara. “Now we are looking for a new coach - either Cambodian or foreign - to strengthen the team. Many Cambodian coaches already have their clubs, so we hope to have a good foreigner in near future.” Coach Apisit has promised to help the team during the last-16 stage of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup held in Phnom Penh.
Crown have signed four new players for the season, including defender Chan Dara from Khemara Keila, striker Heng Sok Ly from Phouchung Neak, and youngsters Hong Makara from Kandal and Muy Hean from Koh Kong. Goalkeeper Thong Chanreakmey has meanwhile returned to the club after a one-year loan spell at relegated Post Tel Club.
Be Makara seemed content with his new purchases. “Chan Dara has a good reactions, so it will be good to see him play in partnership with other defender Tieng Tiny or Thul Sothearith,” he said. “And the other players have good records at their previous clubs.”
Crown failed in their pursuit of signing Build Bright United midfielder Chhun Sothearath, but experienced professionals such as Chan Rithy – who is rumoured to be heading to Thailand – will remain in the lineup for the Cup competition.
Currently only goalkeeper Sos Proshim has confirmed his departure from Crown to join Build Bright United. The title holders have, however, a large injury list which includes captain Thul Sothearith, midfielder Chim Ratanak, Hong Ratana, Phuong Narong and goalkeepers Peng Bunchhay and Thong Chanreaksmey. “I hope some of them will be in a good form soon, and will help the club to its third success of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup,” stated the manager.
Crown won the cup in 2008 after beating Preah Khan Reach 1-0 in the final, and then repeated the scoreline against Naga Corp in the 2009 final. Teenage sensation Keo Sokgnorn scored the winner last year, and is fit to start for the reigning champions.
Be Makara expressed confidence in his local players, such as Chan Rithy and Chan Chhaya. “Even though we are not allowed to use foreign players, I really believe in my Cambodian boys,” he said, confirming that the players have been busy training three mornings per week and every day from 3pm til 5pm at the team’s own field in a suburb of Phnom Penh.
Crown will play their opening match against Battambang 4:15pm Thursday at the Vocational Training Centre field.
Photos by Nick Sells www.nicksellsphotography.com