Disabled athletes showcase their skills inside Olympic Stadium at the annual Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled), where substantial cash prizes await the winners
A player from the Siem Reap Eagles (centre) jumps but misses a blocking opportunity against the Prey Veng Cobras during their opening game of the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) Saturday.
WITH the excitement of the University Games still echoing through the hallways, the indoor sports hall of the Olympic Stadium came alive once again last weekend as 10 teams from across Cambodia assembled for the 2009 Cellcard Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled).
The annual competition, which is scheduled to run from July 24 until September 26, has attracted main sponsorship from telecom company Cellcard, as well as ANZ Royal Bank and numerous other contributors. The league offers mouth-watering cash prizes for the winners, with the first prize taking home a whopping US$3,000, runners-up earning $2,000, and third place finishers banking a cool $1,000. Outstanding players from the event will also be selected for the national team to represent the Kingdom in regional and world tournaments.
Teams entered into this year's league include Battambang MOSVY Tigers, Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions, Kampong Speu CTN Koupreys, Pailin Stadt Frechen Lions, Kampong Cham Bartu Bulls, Kratie Nike Changemakers Dolphins, Siem Reap Globe Magazine Eagles, Phnom Penh ANZ Dragons, Prey Vieng Kingmaker Cobras, and Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons. After the first round of games last weekend, the Phnom Penh Dragons and the Siem Reap Eagles share top spot with three wins out of three, while the Kratie Dolphins are rooted to the bottom having lost all of their three games. The next round of matches are to be played on August 22 and 23.
Secretary general of CNVL(D), Australian-born Christopher Minko, revealed that the league is in its ninth season, and unlike the able-bodied sports in Cambodia that are still trying to find their feet, disabled sports are already flying.
The Cambodian National disabled volleyball team is currently ranked third in the world, with the majority of squad members chosen from previous CNVL(D) meetings. "Cambodia is number one in Asia-Pacific, and third in the world behind Germany and Slovakia," Minko said. "We are hoping to push on until we reach the number one spot."
The 52-year-old Australian, who has been in Cambodia for 16 years developing disabled volleyball, is confident that local players can attain an extremely high standard of playing by competing in the CNVL(D). "These players are very good," Minko asserted. "They are not handicapped by their disabilities. They put in their best and are doing great."
CNVL(D) Secretary General Christopher Minko attends the opening day of the CNVL(D) at Olympic Stadium Saturday.
The national team have triumphed over Poland, Canada, India and Australia in the past, and is looking to repeat such feats in the 2009 World Cup coming up in December. They will receive training from Christian Zepp of Germany, who has been working as the national team coach since 2001. Zepp has been campaigning for CNVL(D) funding for many years. A year ago he won a local swimming pool competition near his home in Frechen, near Koln, swimming 40.7km over a weekend and donating the entire prize money to the CNVL(D).
Minko revealed that the CNVL(D) are also involved in training athletes in wheelchairs, and will prepare to send some Cambodian disabled athletes to the 2012 Paralympics Games in London.
The CNVL(D) has had Prime Minister Hun Sen as its Grand Patron since 1999, and help provide essential services for disabled Cambodians, most of whom are victims of polio and land mine accidents, as well as organising educational programs to raise awareness of disability issues.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)