As a reflection of football’s growing popularity among girls here, Cambodia will be fielding a U14 team for the first time at the AFC Festival of Football to be hosted by Vietnam from June 1-14.
A two-day preparatory camp to pick the national squad from among the 35 invitees from various provinces, clubs and organisations concluded in Battambang on Monday. SALT Academy Director Samuel Schweingruber of Switzerland, who also works for the Football Federation of Cambodia which help initiate the selection trial, conducted training sessions for the squad hopefuls.
A team of three assistants – former men's national team player Kiri, C-licenced coach Leng Chanthy and goalkeeping coach Shannon Hiller – worked with Schweingruber during the intensive training programme, which included a seven-a side competition. The management will draw up the final list of players travelling to Vietnam in the next few days.
“It is an exciting development. We have never sent a U14 team to an international event before,” the Swiss coach told The Post on Monday. “Women’s football has come a long way and this trip is crucial for grassroots development among girls.
“This trip is all about gaining useful experience,” he added, noting that results and rankings are not recorded.
After the FIFA Grassroots Festival, members of the national team will return home to take part in various girls tournaments planned in five provinces. However, the most exciting domestic event the girls are looking forward to is the FFC sanctioned National Women’s Championships slated for this August at a venue to be confirmed.
Once the final national team selection is made, the players will be split into two separate camps for further training until the departure of the team to Vietnam.
Among the invitees to the selection trial were three players who have already made an impression on the selectors. Hearn Somalen from Kampong Chhnang is a promising striker while Kim Hong and Srey Pouv, who were part of the winning team at a seven-a-side competition in Singapore last November, are two of the brightest midfielders on view.
“There is some good potential in the team and the Vietnam Festival should serve as a good opportunity for these girls to show their mettle and find their own marks,” added Schweingruber.