National Defence Ministry will want to shake off their curse of the quarterfinals for this year’s Samdech Hun Sen Cup competition that kicks off Thursday
Ministry of National Defense (MND) is one of most fastidious Cambodian Premier League (CPL) teams, always abiding by a “no foreign player in the squad” policy that has now been applied to all teams taking part in the 2010 Samdech Hun Cup competition.
“We are so confident about our future matches against the three other teams in group B at the Battambang centre,” stated MND assistant coach Hor Sok Heng, adding that they face Pursat, Mekong Kampuchea University and DATE (Development and Appropriate Technology) from Kampong Chhnang.
Despite an impressive record in the top domestic league, including three titles since 1985 and a runners-up spot from the 2008 campaign, MND have yet to make a big impact in the Cup, reaching only the quaterfinals on each of the last three competitions.
In 2007, under the name Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, they were beaten 3-1 by Phnom Penh Crown – formerly Phnom Penh Empire. Then in 2008, they were knocked out by Khemara Keila.
Last year, the team’s management were left infuriated by a woeful performance from their players that saw the side lose 5-3 after penalties to arch rivals Phouchung Neak, the Cambodian Navy team.
Five star men, namely Khim Borey, Nov Soseila, Sok Pheng, Lorn Sotheara and Samreth Seiha, were accused of throwing the game and subsequently suspended indefinitely from the squad. After threats of a mass exodus from the club, disputes were eventually settled to allow the players to return to the field, with MND finishing in the money in fifth place.
“Losing to Phouchung Neak in the 2009 quarterfinals was a terrible event for us, but we have to forget the past and look forward to victory in the upcoming tournament,” said Hor Sok Heng. “I hope we can do well because many of our players are on the national team. However, we need to teach them more about the physical side [of playing].”
MND players account for more than a third of the U23 national team, selected by Australian-born coach Scott O’Donell, including goalkeepers Samreth Seiha and Sou Yati, defender Pheak Rady, midfielders Nov Soseila, Um Kompheak and Lorn Sotheara, and striker Khim Borey.
During the inaugural BIDC Cup held at Olympic Stadium last November, Nov Soseila became a hero for home fans, giving a mesmerising performance in every match he played. The diminutive winger gained the nickname “Chaly”, relating his energy and speed on the ball to that of the popular little Honda motorbike.
Hor Sok Heng described the team’s confidence in depth of talent and a strict training regime overseen by head coach Op Sam An. “We have trust in the whole team, not just the boys who have international experiences,” said the assistant coach. “Before the preliminary round, we set up the regular training schedule every evening and every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Currently we have no injury problems.”
Besides funding from the ministry, MND has attracted sponsorship from the Phnom Penh Beer company. “Our team will wear shirts with the Phnom Penh Beer logo,” said Hor Sok Heng, adding that he didn’t know how much the company had sponsored, but that it would supplement player and officials incomes. “We hope to have a regularly partner for the stability of the club.”
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)