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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top flight league blasts off

Top flight league blasts off

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Preah Khan Reach’s Sok Rithy (right) vies with Phnom Penh Crown’s Srey Veasna during their 2010 Metfone C-League playoff final.

The second edition of the Metfone C-League kicks off tomorrow with 10 teams vying for top honours in the table come the close on September 4, following the Football Federation of Cambodia’s decision to drop the post-season Super 4 playoffs.

Defending champions Phnom Penh Crown, along with Preah Khan Reach, Build Bright United, Naga Corp, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, National Defence Ministry and Prek Pra Keila feature again in the Kingdom’s premier league competition, and will be joined by Division A1 promotees National Police Commissary and Rithy Sen from Kampong Chhnang.

With cash-strapped Khemara Keila pulling out, a combination of former first league clubs Wat Phnom and Phouchung Neak have claimed the remaining place in the Metfone C-League after winning a playoff over rivals Chhma Khmao and Kampong Cham outfit Neak Khiev. Here is an analysis of the weekend’s match ups at Olympic Stadium.

Phnom Penh Crown v Preah Khan Reach
Saturday April 2 – 3pm
After initially being pitted against bitter rivals Naga Corp in the opening match, reigning champions Phnom Penh Crown now meet 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup winners Preah Khan Reach, with the FFC rescheduling just days previously for a more glamorous start to the league.

Crown’s Croatian coach Bojan Hodak will face his first league match in charge of the favourites after seeing his crash out in the quarterfinals of the Hun Sen Cup to Build Bright United. With a few departures over the close season, most notably attacking midfielder Keo Sokngorn to Thailand,

Crown have introduced a dozen fresh talents such as Kouch Sokumpheak, San Narith, Suong Vireak and Sun Sovannrithy to their ranks.

Former national team player and Stung Treng coach Hok Sochivoan has also been added, as well as the Nigerian trio of striker Kingsley Njoku, centre-half Odion Obadin and Kenny Nwafor, who played for Khemara last term.

The only injury concern for the opening match against PKR will be Chim Ratanak.

Meanwhile, the Military-Police-backed PKR will hope to replicate their recent domestic success while putting their 4-3 defeat at the hands Crown in last year’s championship game behind them.

PKR General Secretary Ok Samnang noted his team will not field any foreign players. “We find it difficult to manage them, and we have to spend a lot of money,” he said.

“On the other hand, they are not different [in ability] to our Cambodian players.”

Besides the experience of Golden Boot winner Khuon Laboravy, Prak Mony Udom and Captain Sam El Nasa, PKR will give more opportunity to young players in the first team. Midfielder Hoy Phallin, from their U16 side and also U16 national team, is set to make his mark in the senior squad.

“Sure, Phnom Penh Crown, will hold an advantage because of their foreign players, but anything can happen in the 90 minutes. We are also a strong Cambodian team,” added Ok Samnang.

Naga Corp v National Police Commissary
Sunday March 3 – 2pm
Naga Corp Manager Lam Tiny said he was saddened by the decision to deny them a showcase opener against Crown. “We prepared to play the 3pm [match] against Crown in training, but it changed to 2pm against the Police side [on Sunday],” he told The Post. Naga Corp, coached by former national team tactician Prak Sovannara, has retained the majority of his men, with just Sun Sovannrithy joining Crown and Tong Soto opting to leave. Squad newcomers include Chea Virath from Crown and Pheng Dara from Stung Treng. Defender Samuel Oseka is the only foreigner left at the club.

“National Police improved so much since the previous season, but we are more mature than them in football terms, so I hope that we will overcome them,” said Lam Tiny.

National Police Commissary are set for the first Metfone C-League game against the side that ousted them in the quarterfinal of Hun Sen Cup. Club chairman Choun Narith revealed that he believes his players are becoming more professional.

“Now they know well how football [in the top flight] is,” he said. “They have a good team spirit. I’m so happy with them” he said.

The Police team have also chosen not to employ foreigners, with the aim of improving their young local players. “We are so proud that we have two defenders, Touch Pancharong and Soy Piseth, in the national team. But I think that it is because of their teammates that they have this chance,” added the Chairman. “With team spirit, we can win over experienced team Naga Corp.”

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey v Prek Pra Keila
Sunday March 3 – 4pm
Both teams earned their place in the new campaign after avoiding the drop last year. Kirivong hold the edge over their rivals on Sunday with resounding 5-0 and 3-0 victories in their previous two league meetings.

Samay Sokea, manager of the Takeo-based Kirivong, said that his side will look for a repeat their victories over Prek Pra. “We have a good squad, especially In Vichheka and Meak Chhordaravuth, so Prek Pra is not a difficult team for us,” he said.

The side are set to introduce three Nigerians along with local defender Edem Bryan for the upcoming season.

Prek Pra General Secretary El Fatel, meanwhile, is confident of positive results once again. “We have a good management. We prepare well by playing friendly matches against the big teams, so we are not afraid of any team,” he said.

Nigerian Philip Ali, who starred in the side last term, is still on Prek Pra’s books and may be bolstered by a further three compatriots yet to be confirmed.  

Coach Jack Tonye Charles, also from Nigeria who lead the team into the 2011 Hun Sen Cup quarterfinals, has kept his position but will work with the team only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while El Fatel will lead the team on the remaining other days.

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