Sabay Salty Crabs captain Kenneth Kim (R) tries to guard Phnom Penh Dragons’ Mark Nabong during the CBC Grand Final November 12, 2012 at the Beeline Arena. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
With the inaugural Cambodia Basketball Challenge presented by Sabay and Banzai done and dusted, the organisers of the first of its kind event in the Kingdom are embarking on upgrades in all vital areas next season. The 10-week event achieved in good measure its main objective of creating a unique experience for players and fans so as to help the game spread its wings here. One of the three CBC Match Commissioners, Kenneth Kim, who also captained the title winning Sabay Salty Crabs, reflected on their first edition and laid out their vision of the future in this exclusive chat with Post sports writer H S Manjunath.
Looking back, how do you assess the season?
The goal of the competition was to assist in the development of basketball in Cambodia at grassroots level. It was essential to make the first few steps needed. We were able to pique interest among Cambodians who had no experience playing basketball. That was success in itself.
Where is CBC heading next?
There will be a second season. CBC operations are maintained through strong partnerships with generous benefactors.
Without the support of our main sponsors, Sabay and Banzai, as well as our associate sponsor, NagaLottery, we would not have been able to acheive what we have achieved.
Substantial support is still needed in order to raise the profile of this competition and basketball through out the country. This will provide a unique opportunity for donors to make a lasting contribution.
Can you take us through your expansion plans?
We started with eight teams and that was tough to secure. There have been numerous enquiries from newly assembled teams. I expect a few additions next season. However, that will depend on the quality of these teams because it is essential that we do not water down the level of play and hurt the overall quality. I am also reaching out to some of the universities in Phnom Penh that have basketball teams to see if they’d be interested in joining. The bottom line is this: if you have a team that can compete at a high level, I openly welcome you to participate.
What upgrades have you in mind for next sesson?
For the inaugural season, we worked on a bare minimum operating plan. There was always scope for supplementary entertainment at our games, but that did not happen. I realise that at times, it could get awfully dull during breaks between games, quarters and halves.
For the second time around the goal is to have more fan interaction, such as games for fans to be a part of in between breaks, and live music performances by both up and coming and established artists.
As far as equipment, the greatest issue I felt that we had is the need for a much better scoreboard. I am aware that at times it was either difficult to view or even understand the scoreboard we were using. That has been noted and will be addressed.
How do you address the issue of man-power needs?
Things were good for the CBC, but they definitely could be better. This starts with getting more people involved in the coordination and running of the event.
The present team is extremely small, but now more people are aware that there is actually a group that loves basketball and is making an effort in developing it. CBC will grow with more like-minded people.
How is your relationship with the Cambodian Basketball Federation?
It was unfortunate that the Cambodian Basketball Federation was unable to have an active involvement during our competition. The relationship I have with them is fantastic, as they were greatly supportive of this event. I have faith that next season the federation will play a more active role.
Is CBC planning a long term arrangement with Beeline Arena?
I am thankful for the great relationship CBC has with Banzai, owner of the Beeline Arena. Obviously, without their venue, we would not have had a platform to compete for fans to come and watch. I’d love to work out some sort of long-term arrangement with them. Hands down, there is no other facility in the country that is on par with Banzai’s. We’ll get together and have a sitdown to discuss as to where to go from here.
Most expats work here and their availability is linked to their job contracts. How will you tackle this constant movement?
There were three teams composed of mainly Cambodians and five teams of expats. Suprisingly, the three Cambodian teams performed above expectations – Sela Meas made it to the playoffs, CCPL Heat made it to the semifinals, Sabay Salty Crabs won the championship.
Since expats come and go, this is something that the CBC was always aware of. However, it seems like everytime one leaves, two more come in. So there will never be a shortage of expatriate players. The local Filipino community has been around for years, and, if anything, is constantly growing. So there will always be a crop of good players.
On top of all of that, I believe that more and more skilled homegrown Cambodian basketball players will come up as the popularity of the sport grows.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]