THE ninth annual Bayon Challenge International Tournament plays out this weekend at Phnom Penh’s Old Stadium. This year features eight teams, with four travelling from Vietnam and four local teams participating. The Vietnam teams are Saigon Saints, Saigon Raiders, Minsk, and Hanoi Drink Team, while the local sides include reigning champions ACLEDA Bank, Ezecom, Bayon Wanderers, and Apsara Dancers.
All teams will play in a single group round robin format, playing each other once before the top four teams advance to winners semifinals and final, while the bottom four progress to consolation semifinals and final. Thus a total of nine games will be played by each team. Games will be spread out over Saturday and Sunday, with the grand final scheduled for 4:15pm Sunday. Each team will receive a trophy.
“With most Cambodian teams not accustomed to two-day tournament structures, it will be a learning experience for them,” noted tournament organiser and Bayon Wanderers founder Billy Barnaart, adding that he hopes the sides will also learn to respect the terms of amateur competitions, which requires registration fees to cover event costs. He claimed many teams had declined to compete due to these fees.
Barnaart asserted that a ‘pay-to-play’ policy for locals as well as foreigners is necessary help development football in Cambodia. “I believe that if the amateur basis is strong, the top professionals will be strong,” he stated.
Jan Olde Riekerink, Head of Youth Education at Dutch professional team Ajax, wrote a letter welcoming players to the tournament, which he said “has a rich history starting in the mid-nineties, as one of the few 11-a-side International amateur tournaments in Southeast Asia.
“Its an amazing featb to keep this tournament going ... Congratulations to the organisers of what, I am sure, will be a competitive and enjoyable weekend for you all.”