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Cup dreams for small teams

Khemara Keila's Keo Ravuth (right) shields the ball from Life University's Iem Sarath during their 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup last-16 fixture February 21 at Olympic Stadium.

The 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup pits the might of Cambodian Premier League clubs against some plucky provincial teams who have some ideas of their own.

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Khemara Keila's Keo Ravuth (right) shields the ball from Life University's Iem Sarath during their 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup last-16 fixture February 21 at Olympic Stadium.

THE preliminary round of the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup kicks off January 7 with games staged simultaneously at the four centres in Siem Reap, Battambang, Svay Rieng and Kep. The eight Cambodian Premier League sides which made the quarterfinals of the previous campaign are heading each of the eight lettered groups, two at each centre.

New or provincial teams, mostly comprised of semiprofessionals and amateurs, say they relish the challenge.

“It will be a hard work for us to play against favourites Naga Corp in group D,” said Koeu Slaymann, manager of the Oddar Meanchey team.

“However, I hope that we will win over other two provincial teams in the group, such as hosts Siem Reap and Kampong Thom.

“The team doesn’t have the sponsorship,” he added. “I spend out of my own pocket with some contribution from the provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport. So I cannot guarantee what will happen. But I really want to take my team to the last 16 in Phnom Penh. We only lost 3-2 to Khemara Keila in a friendly match, so our team is not too bad.”

Phany Chamroeun, captain and coach of Life University team from Preah Sihanouk, is optimistic of advancing from his group of death.

“In group E, we will face all experienced teams; Phouchung Neak and Kirivong Sok Sen Chey from CPL, and Kampot,” he said. “We are so happy with the draw. If we can overcome this step, it won’t be difficult for us in the next step. We’ve worked hard because we need to qualify for the round in Phnom Penh, as we did last two seasons”.

Pin Dara, coach of the recently promoted Svay Rieng team, is eager to stamp his team’s authority on the tournament, especially in light of the new rules regarding nationality of players. “It’s time for us to show our performance, because we will play next year in the top league,” he stated. “We’ve trained regularly, five days a week, and most of the squad are not injured. I think that the levels of other opponents are not so different from us because they use 100 percent Cambodian players. Before, we were afraid with the presence of foreign footballers.”

El Fatel, coach of Prek Pra Keila of Kandal province, noted good morale in his team. “The players get along well with each other because most of them play for the team in the previous season,” he said. “From several friendly matches, I really appreciate the performance of my boys, not only the old ones but also the new ones. If they are still in this form, I hope that we can go ahead. However, I can’t predict the result because some players are still suffering from injury.”

Tam Matt, coach of Rithy Sen of Kampong Chhnang province, remained confident of progression from their five-team group playing in Battambang, having already gained some local knowledge of the pitch. “We’ve held friendly matches with small teams in the province to let the players adapt well to the field,” he revealed. “In group A, we are at the same level as Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey, so it won’t be a big obstacle for us. But with two-time champions Phnom Penh Crown, we will be in a difficult situation. However, my players will try their best to get good results from every fixture.”

Prey Veng coach Kong Soy was more pragmatic to the media. “We have to recognize our level,” he asserted. “In group G, I know that favorites Khemara Keila will qualify 100 percent. So it’s difficult for me to say that our team will advance.

“That is what I want to let you know, but with my players I can’t say like this. I keep pushing them to try their best. My players are still young and lack experience. However, we recently lost only 2-3 to Dong Thap, a professional team from Vietnam, in a friendly match. You will see what will happen.”

Sar Sara, Kep coach and also deputy at the office of Sport in Kep province, said: “As host team, we’ve had many things to do for the tournament.

The players didn’t have much time for training. In group F, I can’t dismiss rivals such as Kang Reach Sey, Wat Phnom [formerly Spark FC], Post
Tel and Koh Kong. Some of them beat us in the past. OK, we should forget about that and look forward to good results from the preliminary round.”



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