The third edition of the Metfone C-League will kick off this weekend with double- headers on both Saturday and Sunday at Olympic Stadium. Interestingly, some coaches will have spent precious time with their players due to commitments at the AFC A-Licence coaching course, which concluded on Wednesday.
Newly promoted Western University and Boeung Ket Rubber Field FC will be intriguing prospects, with each making their first forays in the top tier, while Hun Sen Cup champions Preah Khan Reach will set off to Malaysia today to play in the last 16 round of the 2012 Malaysia FA Cup.
Naga Corp v National Police Commissary
Saturday March 10 – 2pm
NAGA Corp manager Lam Tiny said his side would respect their opening- game opponents, after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Police in the first half of last season. “I can’t predict what will happen, but we will try the best to win the opening game because our players are in a good shape,” he said.
Four sacked Phnom Penh Crown players – San Narith, Sun Sovannrithy, Thul Sothearith and Sun Sopanha – have joined Naga in the off-season but are still in suspension following sanctions from the Asian Football Confederation for their parts in violent clashes at the AFC President’s Cup final on September 25.
Both Naga and the Police have yet to decide about fielding members of their foreign contingent. Lam Tiny says it is unlikely, while Police club president Choun Narin claims players’ visas could prove problematic. Former Chhlam Samuth star striker Paul Olabode is on the Police club’s books.
Choun Narin noted that striker Horm Rathana and midfielder Noun Borey will be their shining lights this season despite injury concerns. “We are training and polishing the players’ skills by ourselves, without assistance from other clubs. I hope my young players will give us a good result against Naga Corp,” the president said.
Kirivong Sok Sen Chey v Boeung Ket Rubber Field
Saturday March 10 – 4pm
TOMORROW’S late kickoff welcomes an early clash between the two provincial sides of a capital club- dominated league.
Kampong Cham’s Boeung Ket FC are an unknown quantity at this level. New star recruits since their recent Hun Sen Cup run include legendary left winger Chan Rithy from Thai Surin FC, National Defence midfielder Touch Sokheng, and Phnom Penh Crown playmaker Takahito Ota of Japan. Goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay and Hong Rothana are another pair from the disgraced Crown squad that are still under suspension.
Phan Chanphat, Kirivong’s assistant coach, could not be reached by phone yesterday, but according to their form in the Hun Sen Cup, striker Ek Sopheap will once again be one to watch from the Takeo-based side along with captain In Vichheka and Ek Vannak.
Build Bright United v Chhlam Samuth
Sunday March 11 – 2pm
Both sides’ coaches will be rushing back to the training fields from the AFC A-Licence coaching course.
Bun Pichmony, General Secretary of Build Bright United, revealed the team will give chance to some of their younger players to show their abilities, but the experience of Chhun Sothearath, Oum Chandara, and Heng Sokly will still be important.
“The opening game is very meaningful for each team, so I believe my players will try hard to win the game,” said Bun Pichmony.
In the previous campaign, Chhlam Samuth grabbed a 3-2 victory over BBU in their first encounter, while the University-backed outfit answered back with a 2-0 win in the return leg. Chhlam Samuth striker Nuth Sinoun and midfielder Chan Pichchely will be playing against their former club on Sunday.
National Defence Ministry v Western University
Sunderland March 11 – 4pm
NATIONAL Defence Ministry have witnessed an exodus at the club in recent weeks, losing right back Pheak Rady and midfielders Um Kompheak and Touch Sok Heng. However, with the exception of Boeung Ket-bound Touch Sok Heng, the former Army players may find difficulty in playing for new sides after former coach Op Sam An noted they were still registered military officials and had fled the club when accused of match-fixing.
“It is destroying soccer [in the country] and the whole club,” the coach said, adding that it would not have been a big problem if they had been on the reserve team.
“However, National Defence have new forces who can help the team.”
Division 1 champions Western University were in for a baptism of fire against the Army team, noted manager Lay Sothea, who nevertheless predicted they would stay up this year.
“Our three Nigerian players, who have full experience from the league last season, alongside Sok Sophea, Long Boran and Long Sopheak, are our biggest assets,” the manager added.