Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - FIFA puts the boot into CFF

FIFA puts the boot into CFF

FIFA puts the boot into CFF


Former Olympic Committee President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, center, leads a procession across the pitch at Olympic Stadium. On his left is Prince Chakrapong, over his right shoulder is former CFF President Khek Ravy.


he Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will not recognize the

recent presidential election held by the Cambodian Football Federation (CFF) and

may suspend it's $250,000 annual funding to the Kingdom and ban Cambodian teams from

international play, according to a document obtained by the Post.

A letter to addressed to the CFF and signed by Joseph S Blatter, president of Zurich-based

FIFA, reads that "all the documents received by FIFA conclude that Article 17

of the FIFA statute has been flagrantly violated on the grounds of political interference...

FIFA is not in a position to recognize the so-called election."

The missive states that if the incumbent CFF leadership is not reinstated by May

5 "it would force the FIFA president to propose the suspension of the CFF with

its consequences in terms of prohibition of all football contests at world, continental

and regional events."

The move follows accusations from officials at the Ministry of Education, Youth and

Sport (MoEYS) accusing former president Khek Ravy of holding the CFF presidency unlawfully

since 2003.

The allegations led to a snap election on April 25 in which Ravy was replaced unanimously

by Sao Sokha, head of the military police and formerly a chef for Prime Minister

Hun Sen. Sokha also maintains a military police club team ranked fourth in the Cambodian

Premier League standings.

"I became president of the CFF because I wanted to help develop football in

Cambodia," Sokha told the Post. "We can see that football in Cambodia has

remained poor and lacks technical skill. I have just started work and to understand

the situation in the CFF. I am not sure whether FIFA will suspend its funding."

The removal of FIFA funding would be the latest blow to an embattled national program

that has been mostly winless and wracked with scandal for much of the past three

decades. Cambodia currently holds a FIFA ranking of 184th out of 205 countries.

"So far we haven't heard that FIFA will suspend the $250,000 annual payment;

we did get a letter from FIFA that said they will not recognize the elections of

the new committee," said Bon Sok, Secretary of State for the MoEYS. "However,

we will try our best to be recognized by FIFA. They are our biggest sponsor for funding

and training."

Outgoing president Ravy said that instability in CFF management jeopardizes the momentum

gained by the program through youth development and grassroots programs.

"There's no bad blood," Ravy said. "I hope that good things will come

but only after some problem solving - for the better of the national team and to

bring back national pride."

Now in question is the status of the CFF headquarters outside Phnom Penh. The facility,

which has a training center and a football field, was built with a $400,000 FIFA

grant under the auspices of the Goal Program. Also in doubt is the status of the

Cambodian national team. Before the 2005 SEA Games, Prince Norodom Ranariddh abruptly

replaced the CFF-sponsored national side with his private team Khemara which has

represented the country ever since.

"Right now there is no national team," Ravy said.

But Australian Scott O'Donell, the current CFF technical director and former national

team coach, said he had met with Sokha recently and was optimistic that CFF management

would soon be able to concentrate on football.

"I just want to coach football again. I'm here to focus on football and get

the most out of the players; that's my job," said O'Donell, who also serves

as a football analyst for ESPN/Star sports.

"I think we should be able to compete with the Philippines, Brunei and Laos.

All it comes down to is the right preparation and training. There are some really

good players here."

O'Donell's contract with the CFF expires in 2007.

"I am studying the issue of Khemara being the national team," Sokha said.

"We will see what Khek Ravy can do in the future and Scott O'Donell will remain

as technical director.

"We will hold a congress soon and debate how to run the program and bring Cambodia

up to international standards."

Politics of the pitch

Late 1800s: French colonialists introduce football to Cambodia.

1933: Cambodian Football Federation and national team founded.

1953: Cambodia incorporated into the Federation Internationale de Football Association


1960s-early 70s: National team one of the strongest in region. Victories against

India, Japan and China.

1972: National side captained by Som Saran considered the greatest in Cambodian history.

Places 4th in ASEAN Cup.

1975-1980: All sports suspended, records of football destroyed during ongoing conflicts.

1987: Sin Sok of Department of Urbanism is elected president of Cambodian Football

Federation (CFF).

1994: Khek Ravy returns from France and the US and joins CFF. He says that the CFF

head office then consisted of little more than a few chairs and a typewriter.

1995: In its first official post-conflict international tournament in Thailand, Cambodia

is thrashed 32-0 in four matches.

1996: German Joachim Fickert is appointed as the first foreign coach of the national

football team.

1998: Ravy, then Funcinpec Secretary of State in the Ministry of Commerce, is appointed

CFF president. Sin Sok challenges the results but loses in Appeals Court. Cambodia

reaches its highest FIFA ranking at 156th out of 205 registered countries.

2002: Ravy secures a $400,000 contribution from FIFA for the construction of a training

facility near Phnom Penh. FIFA also agrees to provide $250,000 in annual funding

to Cambodia.

2003: Allegations of national team members betting against their own team at SEA

Games are dropped after a CFF investigation. However, Ravy publicly calls players

'lazy' and says the team 'parties too much'.

July 2005: Ravy submits the CV of Australian Scott O'Donell, former professional

player and coach of Singapore's Geyleng United, to coach the Cambodian national side.

Prince Ranariddh approves the nomination two hours later. At a welcoming ceremony

for O'Donell, Ranariddh says "You can count on my support. You are not alone.

The Cambodian nation, the Olympic Committee and the prime minister are behind you."

November 2005: Days before the SEA Games in Manila, Ranariddh replaces national team

with a private squad. New team is mostly made up of Cambodia Premier League champion

Khemara players. "Prince Ranariddh thinks that Khemara should constitute the

backbone of the national team," says Ravy. "I think the Cambodian people

are baffled by this decision." At the Manila Games, Cambodia is outscored 0-10

in three matches. FIFA ranking plummets to 184.

March 2006: CPP officials at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports accuse Khek

Ravy of holding the CFF presidency unlawfully, saying they have called for new elections

since 2003.

April 2006: Khek Ravy announces that an election will be held to determine the future

CFF president, and that he will run for re-election. CPP Education Ministry Secretary

of State Bun Sok denies that the issue is part of a campaign to remove Funcinpec

members from positions of power.

April 25, 2006: Sao Sokha elected as new CFF president.


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