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Controversy scuppers play

Controversy scuppers play

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Boys play football on the site of the former Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Organisers have been forced to cancel this weekend’s Bayon Challenge football tournament following the decision of two of the six teams to withdraw in objection to the controversial choice of venue.

The team from Wing, the mobile money payments service owned by ANZ Bank, pulled out from the two-day event this week due to discomfort over fielding a side on the 7NG pitch in Phnom Penh, the site of a violent eviction of hundreds of families of the Dey Krahorm community in January 2009.

Last year’s runners up, the Saigon Saints, yesterday followed Wing in withdrawing.  

The annual competition was denied its original choice of the Old Stadium due to a bookings clash with the Cambodian Rugby Federation. Tournament organiser Billy Barnaart said other venues had been ruled out through unavailability and impracticality.

Barnaart said a mini-tournament involving the Bayon Wanderers, Ezecom, Apsara Dancers and Hanoi Drinks Team – who could not change their flights at such short notice – would be played instead on Sunday from 10:30am to 4pm at Old Stadium.

Chan Vichet, a representative of the former Dey Krahorm community, said a press conference would be held opposite the 7NG field entrance this morning to address concerns over the tournament that he says would have been hosted on “stolen land”.

“7NG made [the] football field to hide their inability to develop on the land in any meaningful way that would justify removal of legal owners,” Chan Vichet  said yesterday.

Nhem Vanny, sales executive for 7NG, said yesterday: “It is their right whether they rent the place to [play] football or not.”

The facility is gaining popularity amongst local football teams, with Metfone C-League side National Police Commissary training there.

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