The Cambodian Federation of Rugby recently received the International Development
Award from the sport's governing body for raising the game's status in Cambodia.
A December 14 ceremony in Phnom Penh showcased the award given by the International
Rugby Board after the rugby World Cup in Sydney. Sports officials praised the sport's
rapid expansion in Cambodia, among the game's most improved nations.
"People are pretty passionate here, and they play pretty hard, but I want to
try to get them to understand more about the camaraderie involved," said Tan
Theany, president of the Cambodian rugby club and the sport's only international
female president. She has been instrumental in laying the administrative groundwork
for rugby in Cambodia.
Philippe Monnin, general-secretary of the Cambodian Federation of Rugby, launched
Cambodia's first attempt at the sport in 2001 with a domestic junior competition
in Phnom Penh. There are now 200 players and 16 teams scheduled to play in 2004.
"When we first started out it was [just] for fun, but then it became obvious
the Cambodian people have so much love for rugby," he said. "There's so
much demand for the game now."
Moninn hopes Cambodia will soon form its first international team capable of challenging
other Southeast Asian nations, as well as sending a seven-member team to the 2004
Olympics in Athens. The players themselves have even expressed World Cup aspirations.
Ratana Pich, one of the country's first international players, said he had his eye
on defeating New Zealand's celebrated team.
"We want to beat the All Blacks one day," he said.