As Cambodian delegates prepare to depart Saturday to the SEA Games in Laos, local fans eagerly await news of success, but bemoan the lack of live TV coverage
WITH the Under 23 Cambodian football team having already traveled to the 25th SEA Games in Laos last week in preparation for their tournament, it is now the turn of the rest of the delegates to join them ahead of their events starting December 8. More than 100 athletes and coaches competing in 18 different sports will depart at the crack of dawn Saturday to begin the two-day bus trip to Vientiane.
For the SEA Games, Cambodian sports officials are working hard to improve the performance of athletes and win more medals then previous events.
Athletes will participate in archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, judo, karatedo, sepak takraw, wushu, wrestling, taekwondo, shuttlecock, petanque, beach volleyball, table tennis, badminton, tennis, swimming and golf.
The Cambodian public includes some avid sports fans who will be eagerly awaiting the results from Laos. Twenty-one-year-old agriculture student Chon Sokha hopes that Cambodian athletes will try their best to get medals. He believes the Kingdom’s best chance for medals will be in petanque and athletics, while he hopes the football team will improve on results at previous tournament. “I can’t expect a medal from our football team,” he said. “But I hope that they can reduce the number of goals scored against them.”
Teacher Uon Sovichheka recognised developments made in the standard of Cambodian sport. “I believe that Cambodia will win more medals than previous SEA Games,” he declared. “We have coaches with quality and experience, and the players have been well preparing for the tournament.”
Others local sports enthusiasts have also expressed their optimism ahead of next weeks competition. For NGO official Chan Sothearoath, the promises of cash incentives for medals is not the only thing that encourages athletes to try their best. “If they win, they bring honour both for their nation and for themselves,” he noted.
Chheang Yareth, sports reporter for Kampuchea Thmey daily, said: “I see that [the athletes] have prepared better than previously. I’ve noticed that Cambodia is hungry for medals. I especially believe in petanque, because [Cambodia] took home medals in this sport.”
However, some have bemoaned alleged corruption of sports officials who select family members and friends to represent the Kingdom. “In reality, the standard of Cambodian athletes is not so far from others in the region,” said a source who wished to remain anonymous, and failed to identify individuals.
Other sports fans recall the scandal of recent years involving illegal betting on football results, and the apparent throwing of matches. Vann Ly, manager of U23 football team, refuted allegations of corruption in the current squad.
“The players will try their best,” he said at a press conference.
“If they win, they will get a lot of money. How can they sell the result without thinking about the nation?”
Due to lack of sponsorship, local Cambodian television channels will not be broadcasting live events. TV3 and TV5 will report the results in their sports programme in the morning, while Apsara TV will screen highlights. “We really want to cover the news in Laos, but we don’t have enough money to send our cameramen and journalists,” said Norodom Buddhapong, who is in charge of sports news at TV Apsara. However, he stated that he will expand his sports magazine show to include a focus on events from the SEA Games.
Results will also be reported by other television stations, but may be one or two days after the events. Cable station CCTV has started broadcasting football matches from a Thai channel feed, including Wednesday’s match between Thailand and Vietnam.
“We will broadcast live as many events as we can,” confirmed an official at CCTV.
Student Chan Sopanha said that the SEA Games is one of the most attractive sports events for Cambodians, and was not happy to hear that local networks will not be broadcasting the events live.
“We really want to know how Cambodian athletes play,” said the student.
“We don’t have the opportunity to attend the event, but we want to see them on TV. The government should think about this.”
According to the Vientiane Times, the 25th SEA Games will be broadcast live on 14 television channels in six countries. Television networks that have agreed in principle to show the games live are Brunei Radio and Television, Lao National Radio, Lao National Television, Lao Star Channel, Myanmar’s Forever Group, Singapore’s Media Corp TV, National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBT), Thailand’s TPBS, Channel 5, Channel 7 and TOT, and CAT Telecom, and Vietnam’s VTC Digital and VTV.