Mighty Girls’ Chhin Sopheavy (c) fires a shot on goal during their U15 Girls Football Festival pool game against ANDC. Photograph: Lisa Dittmane/Phnom Penh Post
The inaugural U15 Girls Football Festival – sponsored by the German embassy, Smart Mobile and other related businesses – concluded on Monday at the University of Battambang field, with local outfit Mighty Girls beating cross-town rivals CFI 2-0 in the final.
The seven-a-side games of two 25-minute halves were officiated and coordinated by an all-female staff that had just completed their referee training at the week-long event.
Seven provinces were represented, with two teams from Battambang making up eight in total that played in two groups before playoff rounds.
Matches also included mediation led by the newly trained female referees, which involved players agreeing on rules of fair play before the game and awarding fair-play points after the final whistle.
At the awards ceremony on Monday night, one referee and one player from each team presented their “Hopes and Goals” for the future of women’s football in Cambodia, written during workshops and discussions held throughout the week to build confidence and support across the Kingdom.
Going into Monday’s final day of competition, the Battambang teams topped their respective pools and eased into the knockout semifinals.
Siem Reap grabbed a last-minute winner against Kampong Chhnang to ensure they pipped their opponents to the remaining semifinals place in Pool A, while Kampong Thom advanced from Pool B via a superior goal difference over the A New Day Cambodia team from Phnom Penh.
For ANDC, the adventure was over but disappointment was forgotten hours later when the girls lifted the Fair Play trophy for their gamesmanship, edging Pailin by just a single fair play point.
Monday afternoon’s first semifinal saw the Mighty Girls encounter little difficulty in dispatching Siem Reap.
The home side went 2-0 up barely minutes into the game and comfortably cruised through the rest, often impressing with great ball movement and possession play but being guilty of wastefulness in front of the goal.
In the other semifinal, CFI, whose U14 team won the SALT Academy league this year, seized the advantage in the first half and looked odds on to see the game out in style.
But two quick goals by Kampong Thom in the second session forced the CFI coach to bring his rested key players back into the fold and restore their lead at 3-2.
Srey Yuen, captain of the U13 girls’ national team, then gave the Battambang side some breathing space by netting two more goals to secure their ticket to the final.
The third-place playoff went to extra time after Siem Reap’s opening strike was cancelled out in the game’s dying moments.
Kampong Thom dug deep into their energy reserves in sweltering conditions, and a stunning goal by Kauw, last year’s U14 national team member, proved decisive.
The final was a tale of one city, with favourites Mighty Girls dominating the early stages.
The young squad, all aged between 13 and 14, needed to be wary of a CFI side packed with national-team members who will play in the AFC U13 Festival in Vietnam next month.
As both teams tried hard to create chances, Mighty Girls’ Chinn Sopheavy broke the deadlock with a quick-fire finish from close range.
Her ability to keep a cool head in front of goal allowed her to end the tournament as top scorer, with a total of 10 goals from five games.
Despite CFI playing some neat football, the physical advantage of the Mighty Girls made the difference.
In the second half, captain Srey Peuv dribbled past three defenders with pace, then struck a left-foot drive that was simply unstoppable.
CFI stuck at it, but the Mighty Girls didn’t give them the space and opportunities they craved.
The more experienced side had won, although the CFI team impressed everyone with their skill and overall performance.
To contact the reporters on this story: Shannon Hiller and Dan Riley at [email protected]