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Two tune-ups for the Stags

NagaWorld’s vice president of events management Jerome Lee holds the NagaWorld Cup, flanked by head coaches Prak Sovannara (left) of Naga Corp and Salim Moir of Tampines Rovers. The two clubs will play each other for the cup on Sunday from 4pm at Olympic Stadium
NagaWorld’s vice president of events management Jerome Lee holds the NagaWorld Cup, flanked by head coaches Prak Sovannara (left) of Naga Corp and Salim Moir of Tampines Rovers. The two clubs will play each other for the cup on Sunday from 4pm at Olympic Stadium. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Two tune-ups for the Stags

Visiting S-League champions Tampines Rovers will play their first of two friendlies on this six-day trip against 2013 Metfone C-League champions Svay Rieng FC at Olympic Stadium today, with the kickoff marked for 4pm.

Tampines, who are in Phnom Penh at the invitation of entertainment and gaming sector leaders NagaWorld, will take on the host’s own Naga Corp FC at the same time and venue on Sunday.

These two games are part of the Singapore club’s pre-season preparations ahead of their crucial AFC Champions League play-off against South China on February 2.

Nicknamed the Stags, the side have switched from their favoured location for last three seasons of Thailand to Cambodia this year for their regular short training stint before another title defence and other regional challenges.

“These two matches will be our third and fourth pre-season friendlies. They are so important for us coming as they do before that February 2 encounter,” Rovers head coach Salim Moir told a media conference at NagaWorld yesterday.

Both Svay Rieng and Naga will start their own domestic campaign next week and are keen on protecting last season’s silverware. Svay Rieng, the erstwhile Preah Khan Reach, marked their name change by breaking a near eight-year jinx in winning the league championship. Naga, who last won the league back in 2009, are bent on regaining that supremacy having triumphed in the 2013 Samdech Hun Sen Cup.

Barring a formal announcement, Prak Sovannara is all set to retake his job as Naga head coach after a season’s break following his short tenure as the national coach. His presence at the media conference was proof enough that the only coach to have guided Cambodia past the Suzuki Cup qualifiers in 2009, will be back in business as Naga strategist.

“Our players can learn a lot from a professional side like the Rovers. It is a very important game for us,” said Prak Sovannara.

In his welcome address, NagaWorld’s vice president of events management Jerome Lee said it was indeed cheery news for Cambodian football that Tampines had chosen the Kingdom for their pre-season preparations instead of their regular stop in Thailand.

“Our aim is to bring the best of Asian and European football to Cambodia,” Lee said.

NagaWorld has branded the two-tune up games as part of an invitational series. The Rovers, who arrived here on Wednesday, got straight down to training and the delegation as a whole has expressed its appreciation of the NagaWorld’s hospitality.

The Stags wind up their whirlwind tour on Monday.

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