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Khemara Keila struggle to turn silverware into survival

Celebrated club Khemara Keila remain in desperate need of funds despite finishing second in the league and boasting many top names in their lineup

Khemara Keila striker Kuoch Sokumpheak (left) celebrates a goal with teammate Loch Ratha during their CPL match on June 7, 2008.

Khemara Keila, one of the most popular Cambodian Premier League sides, are facing tough times ahead despite their decorated history. The Phnom Penh club triumphed in the inaugural Samdech Hun Sen Cup in 2007, and took the domestic league titles in both of the two previous years. They also finished the last CPL season as runners-up, having lost 2-1 to Naga Corp in the final of the Super 4 competition in September.

Khemara have run into severe financial difficulties over the last few years resulting from the departure of key sponsor Prince Norodom Ranariddh in 2006. However, Lah Salakhan, club founder and team manager, is adamant that that his squad of young players will make the most of their skill and intelligence to lift the side into the knockout stage of the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup.

“[Because of a] lack of money, we can’t recruit new players to build up our club, but we have some new youngsters who accept playing for us voluntarily,” revealed Lah Salakhan. “We can’t do anything else. My players have their financial issues with my club, but they will play with determination to try to win the cup.” The manager also added that his team plays in the same way as in previous campaigns, without any special training.

The team face Prey Veng, Kandal and Arizon Cambodia FC in group G of the preliminary round, played in Svay Rieng province. Their first game is against Prey Veng at 4:15pm Thursday at the Svay Rumpea field.

Khemara Keila have nurtured the talents of many local stars over the years, including Naga Corp’s Om Thavarak and Pok Chanthan, Phnom Penh Crown’s Chan Chhaya, Chan Rithy and Thul Sothearith, and Preah Khan Reach’s Keo Kosal, San Narith and Ouk Mich. Cambodian national team hotshot Kuoch Sokumpheak is amongst the big names that have opted to stay at the club, along with Sophal Udom, Ty Bunvichet, Chan Piseth, Loch Ratha and goalkeeper Mak Theara.

The club have only two defectors from last season’s line up, with defender Chan Dara, confirming that he will be joining his brother Chan Rithy at Phnom Penh Crown, while coach Ung Kanyanith has successfully recovered from injury to take to the field once more with Preah Khan Reach. “We wish the best to the ones who leave the club, and we are happy with the ones who keep staying with us,” stated Lah Salakhan, who will also take up coaching duties for this year. “But we don’t know what they will decide in the future.”

In light of their current situation, the manager expressed the need for new sponsorship to ensure the club’s stability. “For the companies which want to develop the football sector, or introduce their logo or names via our team, they’re welcome,” declared Lah Salakhan. “We cannot employ more than twenty men without money. We can run for this season’s Hun Sen Cup, but I can’t guarantee that Khemara Keila will have the possibility to join the upcoming Cambodian Premier League if we still face financial problems.”

Ouk Sethycheat, general secretary of Football Federation of Cambodia, could not be reached for comment Monday, but has stated in the past that the federation always encourages teams to find the sponsors themselves. Lah Salakhan did not confirm the costs of running the team.

Photos by Nick Sells



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