Following months of uncertainty, the Cambodian Baseball Federation (CBAF) has been granted permission by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia to send the national team to November’s SEA Games in Indonesia on the condition that neither organisation bears the costs.
“The MOEYS has cleared baseball as a special case,” NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.
“The entire cost of the trip for a squad of 27 members including officials will be borne by the Federation. [However], the team will be part of the national contingent.”
The NOCC Secretary noted that all the promises and pledges made by the newly restructured CBAF regarding good governance and promotion of the sport had been taken into consideration.
“As a sign of encouragement, we let them go,” said Vath Chamroeun, “though the Federation failed to comply with our guidelines and technically had no case.”
“Since baseball was not in the national list of teams approved by the Government, the only way they could make the trip was by taking care of their own expenses which the Federation has now agreed to do.”
The change of heart to allow Cambodia’s participation in the baseball competition was ostensibly brought about by reassurances made by the CBAF regarding its long term strategy to promote the sport in the Kingdom and to streamline its administrative set up.
The Federation had vehemently argued that denying baseball its due would seriously impair its development and would have driven away several Japanese baseball agencies which are now ready to help the Cambodian team in a big way.
The CBAF welcomed the last minute clearance as a huge relief and a big opportunity to showcase Cambodia’s passion for baseball.
With baseball being included well past the deadline for entries, there were some hectic exchanges of correspondence in the past week between the NOCC and the SEA Games organising committee, while the Indonesian Baseball Federation acted as a conduit to straighten things out.
Despite the Indonesian National baseball authority already approving Cambodia’s inclusion, the Games organising committee is yet to officially convey its sanction although the proposal has been cleared in principle.
“The green light has already been given. I think the Organising Committee will have no objection once the Indonesian Baseball Federation has agreed to include Cambodia,” Vath Chamroeun said.
“It is now up to the national baseball team to make the best of this opportunity.”
The NOCC official also revealed there had been “a lot of negative thoughts and publicity” surrounding the whole affair, with both the MOEYS and the NOCC “singled out for unfair criticism at various stages by various individuals.”
Vath Chamroeun assured that the NOCC had “no axe to grind against anyone.”
At the end of it all, the happiest man was undoubtedly US-based Joe Cook, the founder of the Cambodian Baseball Federation, who relinquished his position as CBAF President a few months ago but led a vigorous campaign for an Indonesian ticket for the national team.
Though he may not be officially involved with the day-to-day affairs of the Federation any more, there is no disputing the fact that Cook has been the driving force behind the team and should claim part of the credit for pulling off this minor coup of sorts.
However, Cook’s well publicised outbursts against several officials at the height of this controversy, “may bounce back and hurt him at some stage” according to a high ranking NOCC official who wished to remain anonymous.