The Volleyball Federation of Cambodia is currently ‘handicapped’, with executive members abroad and the Ministry of Sport assuming responsibility for one of the Kingdom’s most popular pastimes
A Cambodian beach volleyball player (right) smashes past his Laotian opponent during a friendly tournament May 9.
Federation almost nonexistent
The inactivity of the Volleyball Federation of Cambodia (VFC) is causing promising young Cambodian talent to be ignored.
Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in Cambodia, with both young and old players seen playing wherever they can find a free space to tie up a net on two uprights. The Olympic Stadium Volleyball Courts are often filled with players who come to bet rather than to train. With passionate followers of the sport scattered far and wide across the Kingdom, one would assume the national should be able to do well in international competitions if local talent is sponsored and developed, rather than used for the common practice of gambling.
Sithy Ren, 14, a student who plays volleyball with classmates at the Olympic stadium claimed that many young people are interested in taking the sport up professionally but do not know how to go about getting sponsorship. "My friends and I usually come here to play for fun and sometimes bet," he said.
Chan Sophorn, a staff member at the VFC, said that the federation has been inactive due to changes in the executive committee. "I don't know what is happening here," she admitted when asked to give further details about the activities of the VFC. She did reveal that Chea Chamroeun is now president of the newly re-constituted VFC, but he has been out of the country for a while, accompanied by the federation secretary.
A sports officer from the ministry, who declined to give his name, further revealed that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has hitherto been responsible for organising events, appointing coaches and referees, causing the redundancy of the VFC.
"The [Ministry] is responsible for the organization of national competitions, apart from which the National Olympic Commission also organises competitions like the recently concluded regional beach volleyball competition" May 9 at Olympic Stadium, the official said. "The volleyball federation is handicapped for now, as you can see. The office has only one staff, who is the receptionist."
Beach players look to SEA Games
The Cambodian beach volleyball team, who beat Laos and the Philippines to qualify for the 2009 SEA Games, are currently training hard ahead of the games. The team, under the watchful eyes of coach Kimeang Ham, were seen at the Olympic stadium sweating it out under the scorching sun.
"We are looking forward to the Games," said squad member and first-year student Som Chamnap. "I am very happy to represent my country in the SEA Games, and I hope we will win medals there."
Players selected for the team have been given scholarship to study at Build Bright University, which serves as a morale-booster. "I am grateful to the National Olympic Committee (NOC), who are taking care of us as we prepare for the games," Nhem Sothearith, another member of the Cambodian team added.
Kimeang Ham, who has been coaching the national team since 2004, is happy to be leading the team to his first-ever competition outside the country. "We are training hard to represent [Cambodia], and I am so happy to have this opportunity," he said.
"This is my first time to lead the team to an international competition, and I hope we win a medal. I am not sure we can win the gold, but we will do our best," the former national volleyball player added.
Cambodia defeated Laos 2-0 and Philippines 2-1 in the qualifiers held at the Olympic stadium on May 8 to book their place in the SEA Games, which will be held in Vientiane, Laos, in December.
BBU coach warns of complacency
Coach Meas Samoeurn of Build Bright United (BBU) is being cautious despite the team's good start to the season, remaining optimistic of qualifying for the Super 4. Speaking before the team played out a 1-1 draw against Phouchung Neak last Saturday, Meas Samouern said he is not allowing his team to relent in their efforts.
"We are happy with our start to the season, but we are not yet celebrating because we are yet to meet with the top teams like Preah Khan Reach or Ministry of Defence," the soft spoken Cambodian coach said.
Meas Samouern was also not happy with the way his team struggled Saturday after taking the lead. In the previous match against Phnom Penh Crown, the side nearly relinquished a three-goal lead to barely hold onto a 3-2 victory. Similarly, against Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, they were lucky to walk away with a 1-0 win.
"My players are always tired towards the end of the game," he noted. "We are going to work on their stamina, so they can get more strength to finish off teams early enough."
The BBU coach was also lamenting injuries to some key players including left winger Sem Bunny, goalkeeper Hem Simay and Nigerian-born striker Adeseye Ogunsano.
"The injury to our key players has affected us, too, but we hope that their return will help us push on as the league gets tougher," said Meas Samouern.
Hok Sochetra (right) will feature in the Cambodian veterans team who play Vietnamese counterparts Sunday.
Veterans play Vietnam ‘friendly'
Former Cambodian national team players lace their boots once again and take to the field to showcase their skills in an organised friendly against a Vietnamese veterans side in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. Coach Yean Chheang said the game is organised to foster friendship with Vietnam, but assured that they will be seeking victory. "We don't play to lose," he declared.
The Cambodian veterans played out a 2-2 draw with Tech Srun and D Company on Tuesday in a warm-up match to fine tune their strategies ahead of Sunday's friendly.
The Cambodian team is set to feature former players such as Keo Sophal, Mao Kempo, Rith Dikar and goalkeeper Ouk Chamreoun. Also included are current Preah Khan Reach Technical Adviser and ousted national team coach Prak Sovannara, and former Post Tel coach, Hok Socheatra.
"It's good to be playing again," said legendary Cambodian striker Hok Socheatra after the 2-2 draw at the Olympic Stadium. "I just can't stop playing, even as a coach. I still enjoy playing soccer every day, at least for my health," he added with a smile.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)