Cambodian Premier League clubs Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach wish the federation had never introduced the Super 4 playoff competition after both teams lost their semifinals games
PHNOM Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach should’ve finished first and second respectively in the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) this year. Instead, after being dealt shock defeats in the Super 4 playoff semifinals, they will only make third and fourth, leaving both teams frowning against the format that was introduced by the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC) for this season.
“I am not happy with the organisers of the league because we won the league, yet we are not going to be crowned as champions,” said Crown manager Makara Be. “I have not seen anywhere in [world football] leagues where the champions have to emerge from playoffs.”
However, the decorated manager noted that there was no chance to appeal the league format, and that Crown’s success in the previous competition had actually caused the installment of the Super 4 playoffs.
“In 2008, we won the league long before the end of the season, and [the FFC claimed we] didn’t put 100 percent into the remaining matches,” asserted Makara Be. “How can they decide whether a team is playing 100 percent or not? We know we cannot win all the matches, and so we give our best all the time irrespective of who the opposition is. But the federation came up with this format, which is really disappointing.”
Makara Be also faulted the FFC for his team’s fixture congestion nearing the end of the season, complaining that Crown spent a lot of time traveling to represent Cambodia in international competitions.
“The organisers of the league did not take into consideration that we were playing for Cambodia when we travel out,” the manager stated. “We went to Kyrgyzstan, and also played in the Singapore Cup, and each time we came back we had a back log of games to play. Yet we led the league at the end.
“We played in Singapore on Wednesday, came back to play on Saturday and then another game on Tuesday, before the playoff [semifinal] on Saturday,” he continued. “My players obviously had no power again, and now we cannot defend our title. I am really not happy with the organisers.”
Prak Sovannara, the technical director of Preah Khan Reach (PKR) was also not pleased with the league format, as his side prepare to play for the third place Saturday after finishing second in the regular season.
“I don’t like the Super 4; its not normal,” he opined. “If Man United wins the entire season, can the EPL ask them to play a playoff? I hope the federation will look into this format again and revert back to the usual way. If they want to do a Super 4, it should be a separate cup at the end of the season.”
Naga Corp manager Lam Thiny, however, was gratified that his team had taken advantage of the Super 4 setup to take a step closer to clinching their third league title after only coming fourth in the regular season.
“We are happy with the federation for introducing the Super 4,” he said. “Nobody thought Naga could get to the final, but now we are only 90 minutes away from victory. We knew that the league champion could only emerge after the Super 4 right from the beginning of the season, so we prepared well to get to this stage, and I think the format helps teams to play their best all throughout the season.”
FFC Deputy Secretary May Tola confirmed that the implementation of the Super 4 was to avoid the runaway success of a team affecting the end of the season, such as last year with Crown clinching the title with weeks to go and seemingly allowing smaller teams posting unexpected wins with wide margins to avoid relegation.
“Also, the decision [to stage playoffs] was to encourage all teams to be more competitive,” added the federation official.
However, May Tola was not certain whether the Super 4 playoffs would feature in next year’s competition. “I have no idea now if we will maintain the Super 4 format or revert back,” he said. “After the final on Saturday, the executive committee will meet to review the season and then come up with a decision on whether to continue or not. We will also look into the possibility of a different cup competition for the Super 4.”
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)