Reigning Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown FC have seen their squad decimated in the aftermath of the Asian Football Confederation’s decision on Friday to impose long bans on nine players following their disgraceful conduct during the AFC President’s Cup final on September 25.
Chan Chayam San Narith and Sun Sovannrithy received six-month suspensions from all football competition for assaulting the referee during the ugly scenes in Kaosiung, Taiwan.
Team-mates Kingsley Njoku, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith, Soung Virak and goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay have been prohibited from playing in their next eight domestic and international matches due to improper conduct and involvement in a brawl.
The controversy began when, in the final against home team Taiwan Power Company, Hong Ratana fell in the penalty area under the challenge of defender Tu Ming-Feng.
The stoppage-time infraction, which could have seen them draw the game 3-3, was waved on by Saudi Arabian referee Marai Mohammed Al-Awaji, and Crown players were unable to control their tempers.
Footage of the tackle and reaction by Crown players can be seen on YouTube by searching for “How Phnom Penh Crown’s chance at AFC President’s Cup 2011 was taken away?”
The club clearly wished to distance itself from such behaviour, and its response to the sanctions was swift.
The contracts of Chan Chaya, Peng Bunchhay, Hong Ratana, Sun Sopanha, Thul Sothearith and Suong Virak have been terminated with immediate effect, while Sun Sovanrith and San Narith have jumped ship to join arch-rivals Naga Corp. Kingsley Njoku’s contract has expired.
Crown president Rithy Samnan said in a statement on the club website: “I was devastated by the reaction of some of my players in the AFC President’s Cup Final in Taiwan and have waited to hear the judgment from the AFC disciplinary committee.
“I want my team to play the game of football in the right way, to be an example to our Academy boys and the rest of the youth in Cambodia. This is a key element running through the backbone of Phnom Penh Crown FC.
“Everyone worked so hard last season to bring more success to the club, but the actions of some players have tarnished the reputation of the club, and Cambodian football, throughout Asia. This is why we have taken such robust decisions. We must remain strong and stop this from happening ever again.”
According to Phnom Penh Crown media officer Andy Brouwer, the AFC have yet to announce any action against Taiwan Power Company.
Reaching the final of the AFC President’s Cup saw Crown set Cambodian club history, beating the previous best of a semifinal berth set by Khemera Keila FC in 2006.
Having wrapped up the league title in August, Crown will make their fourth appearance at the regional tournament next year. The group stage is slated for May at a venue to be announced.