Chamkarmon’s Chhun Mesa (left) vies with Naga’s Yam Vanna during their Hun Sen Cup match on January 3. The players will do battle tomorrow in the league. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
THE 2013 Metfone C-League football season kicks off tomorrow with two promoted teams, Senate Secretariat and Asia Europe University, completing the 10-team roster in a nearly five-month long campaign.
In a marked departure from the conventional March start, the Football Federation of Cambodia has opted for a January beginning this year while allowing the final stages of the 7th Samdech Hun Sen Cup to run concurrently.
Both Senate Secretariat and Asia Europe University teams have already sent warning signals to their top-tier competitors that they are not to be treated lightly as the teams just making the grade.
Two-time league champs Naga got the wrong end of the stick from Khan Chamkarmon, who feature a line-up comprised of Senate players, in one of the Hun Sen Cup group matches, while Asia Europe University jolted Cup holders Preah Khan Reach out of their senses.
Hopefully, these headline grabbing efforts by the league debutants would keep seasoned campaigners honest and help maintain competitive standards through the season at better levels than previous years.
Boeung Ket Rubber Field’s sensational first season triumph is still fresh enough and the team will do all it can to grudgingly safeguard this valuable piece of silverware. There are few teams in the league who can match Boeung Ket’s midfield solidity, besides a healthy balance and a reliable bench.
It has been a case of near misses for Naga in the last few seasons and that includes Cup disappointments as well. The 2007 and 2009 league champs would like to shed the bridesmaid tag and reclaim their rightful place at the top. In the last three major events, Naga have seen Phnom Penh Crown beat them to the league title in 2011, Preah Khan Reach beat them in the Hun Sen Cup final in 2012, and when it came to the league title last year, Boeung Ket rubbed it in.
Four-time top tier winners Phnom Penh Crown are well on their way to redeem their pride after a disappointing set of results in 2012. The team has been considerably bolstered by the arrival of three French-Cambodian players, two of whom are also national team probables. For the team’s new Swiss coach Sam Schweingruber, reviving Crown’s league fortunes could be a massive challenge.
Frustrated no end in their quest for a maiden league title, Preah Khan Reach continue to desperately twig for that elusive opening.
National Police Commissary could not sustain their early bustle last season and faded out towards the end to finish fourth, but the team should rank among prominent contenders.
Seasoned campaigners like Ministry of National Defence, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey and Build Bright University have been struggling to break out of the mid-table fix.
The opening weekend features a card of five matches at two different venues.
The Police team kick off the season with an intriguing match-up game against the Army side at 2pm tomorrow at Olympic Stadium. Naga will then look to avenge their Cup defeat against the newly promoted Senate side at 4pm.
Meanwhile, in a 3pm start, Phnom Penh Crown face Build Bright United at the Old Stadium.
Sunday’s fixtures at Olympic Stadium feature PKR taking on Kirivong at 2pm, before Boeung Ket begin their title defence against Asia Europe from 4pm.