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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Who's up to the Bayon Challenge?

Who's up to the Bayon Challenge?

The Bayon Challenge International Tournament plays out this weekend with teams from Cambodia and Vietnam vying for Cup glory in the competition aimed at promoting friendship and happiness


Photo by: Dynah Hui

Bayon Wanderers FC pose for a team photo during the closing event of the National Handicapped Sport day at Olympic Stadium in 1999, an event aimed at raising awareness of people with disabilities. The match against an invitational team of Cambodian music and film stars attracted a crowd of over 35,000, stadium officials said, with the game screened live on TV3.

THIS weekend sees the return of the Bayon Challenge International Football Tournament, held at Phnom Penh's Old Stadium. Saturday's action sees teams do battle in the group stage, while Sunday's knockout stage games will decide the overall standings of each of the teams and the overall Bayon Cup winner.

The Bayon Challenge was first organised in 1996 by Frenchman Djamil, who was playing for Hanuman FC. The team of French-based players organised the annual competition, helping it become a popular event in Southeast Asia among expatriates' teams. However, due to reconstruction of the Olympic Stadium and work in the Old Stadium, the tournament was stopped in 2001.

Bayon Wanderers FC was founded in 1995, around the same time as Hanuman FC, and has contributed much to the development of football in Cambodia since then.

The team comprises players from many countries working and living in Cambodia who want to socialize and keep themselves fit by playing football, with some having never kicked a ball around and others too old to play at a high level. The club also attracts young Cambodian players who like to play football in a relaxed way.

Bayon Wanderers FC is funded exclusively by the players, with even Cambodian members asked to contribute US$3 per month to cover costs.

The team has played friendly matches against many teams in Phnom Penh and in the provinces, and even faced the national team on several occasions, as part of Cambodia's training and preparation for tournaments such as the Asean (Suzuki) Cup. Bayon also travel to Phuket in November and Bangkok in April to play in football tournaments there.

Bayon are led by their Dutch coach, Billy Barnaart with his unique brand of total football, which the club jokingly claim was developed in his youth, around the time of Jayavarman VII.

The Bayon Wanderers were asked by many teams from the region to restart the Bayon Challenge, and they successfully relaunched the tournament in 2008 with sponsorship from Infinity Financial Solutions, with Cambodian side Care International emerging victorious.

Twelve teams have registered for this year's tournament, including two expatriate teams travelling from Vietnam: Hanoi Drink Team and Minsk Saints Search and Destroy FC. Expatriate teams from Cambodia include Gasolina FC, FCC, Apasara Dancers FC and Bayon Wanderers FC, while  Royal Bassac FC, ANZ FC, ACLEDA FC, Bon Cafe, Comin Khmere and Independent FC sides are Cambodian sides.

Photo by:

Lara Barnaard

Last year’s winners of the Bayon Cup, Care International from Cambodia, celebrate with their trophy after the tournament.

Event organiser Barnaart expressed his hopes for the future growth of the tournament, stating that teams from Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have already confirmed their participation in next year's competition, which should put the event firmly in the region's sporting calendar. The tournament has attracted a host of sponsors including Devenco, Angkor Beer, Infinity Solutions, Crown Relocations, Transpo Cambodia, Comin Khmere, Apsara TV, FCC Phnom Penh, Coca Cola, Corona Beer and International SOS. 

In general, all FIFA rules apply to the tournament, with organisers emphasising that the head referee's decisions are final. However, the rules of Bayon Challenge stipulate that it is an "Open" tournament, meaning there is no age limit, with 11-a-side, full-field games played over two halves of twelve-and-a-half minutes each. An interesting feature is the omission of the offside rule, while teams are allowed unlimited (rolling) substitutions and yellow cards forcing the offender to sit out the rest of the half.

Each team is allowed to enter a maximum of 20 squad players, and players are permitted to play for more than one team, provided that captains of both teams agree. However, players from the Cambodian Premier League are prohibited from the competition.

The dozen participating teams will be divided into two groups of six for a round-robin phase of matches, with teams in each group playing each other once. The draw for groups takes place during the Captains meeting at 8pm Friday in the FCC restaurant on Sisowath Quay.

Group games will take place Saturday from 8am, with teams awarded three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. In addition, a bonus point will be rewarded to a winning team that scores three or more goals in a single match.

After the completion of Saturday's group phase, the top two teams from each group progress to semifinal Sunday, while teams placing lower face their opposite group's placing, ie third in group A plays third in group B and so on, to determine the overall standings. If two or more teams conclude the group phase on equal points, standings will be decided by goal difference, followed by goals scored, the result of the game between the team, and if all else fails, a sudden-death penalty shootout.

In the case of a draw at the end of regulation time during any playoff match, a penalty shootout will be conducted without playing extra time to decide the winner of the match.

The Grand Final is scheduled for 5pm Sunday.

The Bayon Wanderers have adopted the slogan, "Just remember, the results are not as important as the performance; it's the number of smiles, not the number of goals that is the true measure of football", to express the spirit of the tournament.



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