A player from the SC Johnson team (r) vies with a Sabay Salty Crabs team player during a training match last Saturday at the Cambodian Country Club. Photograph: Jon Naval/Phnom Penh Post
The newly formed Smart Mobile Cambodian Basketball League is set for its grand launch at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium on June 23, marking the onset of a fresh phase for the sport in this country.
Phone operator Smart Mobile has stepped in as title sponsor for the eight-team league, with the popular Khmer-language news website Sabay providing additional support.
The opening salvo will be fired on June 23, when all eight featured teams will spring into action.
Playoffs have been planned for July 28, with the championship game billed for August 11.
Games will have four, 12-minute quarters, and spectators will be admitted free.
The CBL, sanctioned by the Cambodian Basketball Federation and the world governing body FIBA, aims to serve as a medium to source local talent and lift the game’s profile and standards in the Kingdom.
Astonishing diversity will be seen on the courts, with players from more than 10 countries and ranging in age from 17 to 40-plus, including a heady mix of locals.
“The unifying factor that brings us all together is our love for the game,” Curran Hendry, an enthusiastic basketballer and one of the three co-founders of the CBL, told the Post yesterday.
As it transpires, the long-felt need for organised, sustained basketball activity among both expat and local players triggered the formation of the CBL.
Jon Naval and Kenneth Kim, two foreigners with hoop dreams at heart and years of playing experience, floated the idea of an organised league and soon pulled in Hendry to set the process in motion.
After several parleys with officials of the federation, who went along with the idea, the CBL began to take firm shape.
CBF vice-president Ly Phoung, in particular, threw his weight firmly behind the initiative.
An executive committee of Naval, Kim and Hendry will run the league and deal with all related issues, as no CBF representatives are on the panel.
The CBF will, however, provide match officials and medical support teams.
Meanwhile, federation officials have hailed the CBL as an exciting new phase of development.
“There are some excellent Cambodian players, but the depth of high-calibre talent is limited to several teams, and competition for them is quite limited within the country,” Hendry said.
“There are also quite a few foreign nationals living in Cambodia with organised playing experience from abroad. Between the local and international players we were able to reach out to eight competitive teams that we were familiar with.”
When asked about the financial aspects of launching the league, Hendry noted that the start-up costs were quite high.
“We have to invest some time and money in repairing the court at the Old Stadium. Our first choice for league games was Olympic Stadium, but it is being renovated and will not be available for the inaugural season of the CBL,” he said.
“Other big costs include referee fees and court rental. Costs will be met with the generous support of sponsors and nominal entry fees.”
The CBL is hoping the success of the inaugural season will help the growth of the game in many ways and that increased interest will inevitably lead to more teams entering the fray in the future.
Sustainability will obviously depend on sponsorship. The CBL is optimistic that the excellent benefits the league would provide to sponsors would keep the partnerships firm and guarantee longevity.
The competing teams in the CBL are Sabay Salty Crabs, Mobitel XG Warriors, SC Johnson, Mike’s Burger, Phnom Penh Heat, Phnom Penh Dragons, Sharky and Seila Mes.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]