Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia girls play first-ever game

Cambodia girls play first-ever game

Cambodia girls play first-ever game

090528_22a.jpg
090528_22a.jpg

After a successful women’s football seminar organised by FIFA, Cambodia’s U16 national girls team played their first-ever international friendly against Laos in Vientiane Friday losing 2-1

Photo by: SAM SCHWEINGRUBER

The Cambodian U16 Girls national team line up for a team photo before their game against Laos at the Laos Football Federation training centre in Vientiane, Laos, Friday.

FOLLOWING on from FIFA's Com-Unity Women's Football Seminar held in Phnom Penh in March, the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) were invited to participate in a U16 friendly match against the Laos national team Friday May 22 in the Laos capital of Vientiane.

Women's football competitions have been held in Laos for almost 2 years already, and the senior team competed in the Asian Football Confederation Competition in Vietnam last year, finishing fourth, and currently ranked 15 in Asia and 74 in the world. For Cambodia, this was the first time a team has competed at international level.

The Laos team, with full time coach Volker Hofferbert from Germany and newly appointed senior female football coach from the Republic of Korea, are setting their sights high and will hope to maintain their strong preparation for December's SEA games in Vientiane. They will also compete in the ASEAN Football Federation Championships in Myanmar in October.

Samuel Schweingruber of Switzerland was appointed as Cambodia head coach just three weeks prior to the game and faced the challenging task of finding the best players in Cambodia, inviting a total of 30 players from around Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Phnom Penh for a week's training. While some players came from schools - two girls featured in the side from Banteay Meanchey which won the High School Competition in Battambang in April - many of the girls are from NGO's and orphanages either working with SALT Academy in Battambang or Indochina Starfish Foundation in Phnom Penh.

The players showed fantastic attitude and worked hard, but the short training was by no means enough to sufficiently prepare a team, but acted more as a chance to get to know each other and explain the basics of football.

After 5 days of training twice a day, 22 girls made the cut, sending 8 home in tears.

Friday's match, held at the Laos Football Federation's Sports Training Centre in Vientiane, was officially opened with a kickoff by FIFA Women's Football delegate Michele Cox.

The Laos girls controlled the game well in the early stages to fend off Cambodian advances and create chances of their own, but Cambodia keeper Chou Phally from Kampong Speu showed good skill and bravery to keep the game on even turns. The physically stronger Laos girls dealt well with the Cambodian counterattacks, diverting attacks away from their goalie.

In the 27th minute, Huot Kimhong from Battambang lost the ball off a dribble, and a long ball towards goal caused Chou Phally to clash with the Laos striker allowing an easy tap in to give Laos the lead.

Then, just 8 minutes later, a short goal kick was exploited by the Laotians with Cambodia's central defender Loung Srey Hong unable to clear and, after some hard luck rebounds, the ball somehow ended up in the net.

Laos were pressurising well to make it impossible for Cambodia to build up their play, and the teams went into the break with Laos two goals up.

During the interval, coach Schweingruber advised his players to try to keep danger away from their own goal, which they duly attempted to apply. Both coaches changed frequently to give all players a chance, and the second half seemed more open with both sides making chances with Cambodia having the woodwork and keeper Chou Phally to thank and for maintaining the scoreline.

With 17 minutes left to play, the Laos defence failed a Banteay Meanchey's Tean Nith cross from a corner, allowing Mao Sokhoeurn to pass the cleverly pass back to Tean Nith who curled it over the goalie. The Cambodia girls celebrated their first ever competitive goal like they have just won a tournament.

The last quarter hour was filled with excitement and tension, as Cambodia pushed to equalize while Laos failed to take advantage of their chances on the break, and the game ended 2-1.

Laos coach Hofferbert praised the efforts of both teams and the intensity of the game, despite the hot conditions, adding that his team had been training for the last few months with players selected from an existing league.

For Schweingruber, the game was a highly positive experience with the girls doing him proud. "After such a short time of preparation they really did well and have showing the passion and commitment to work hard," he said. "The physical deficit was obvious and some of the Laos players played technically much better then us, but as a team we showed that there is potential for woman's football in Cambodia."

Schweingruber expressed his hope for more chances for the girls to train together and gain experience by competing in international friendly games. "With some focus, the future of woman's football in Cambodia could look bright."

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