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Cup campaigns set for launch

Sophal Odam (right), the newly installed captain of National Police
Commissary, trains with teammates at the 7NG Field in Phnom Penh on
Monday, ahead of tomorrow’s 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup group stage opener
against Prey Veng provincial team in Prey Veng. Preliminary round Cup
action takes part at four centres across the Kingdom over the next five
days. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
A new football campaign unfolds on
“liberation day”  tomorrow, when the group phase of the 2011 Samdech
Hun Sen Cup involving 32 teams simultaneously kicks off at the four
provincial centres of Battambang, Takeo, Kampong Thom and Prey Veng.

stake for a heady mix of professionals and part-timers, established
teams and loose coalitions, top-tier units and provincial novices, is a
huge purse to go with the national pride of winning the most
prestigious domestic competition.

It is in the inequality of the
teams that the tournament derives its intensity and offers different
strokes for different players. The timing of the event this year is
near perfect, as national team players representing various clubs get
in some match play practice in the lead up to two crucial international
fixtures against Macau in the Asia Challenge Cup in the second week of

For fringe players trying to break into national
reckoning, the group phase and subsequent knockout rounds to be held in
Phnom Penh afford a chance to catch national team head coach Lee Tae
Hoon’s eye. The South Korean is almost certain to watch as much of
action as he can with note pad and pen in hand to draw out a shortlist
of candidates.

For well-funded teams, the stage is set for
shaking off the notorious inertia that normally sets in after a long
break. To start the Metfone C-League season on the right foot weeks
after the conclusion of this event is so crucial for teams beginning
their quest for top league honours.

Provincial sides have nothing much to lose but everything to gain in a set up like this.

of the eight groups will be headed by one of the Metfone C-League
outfits with the exception of Khemara Keila, who have pulled out due to
financial constraints. Chhma Khmao, one of the two teams relegated from
the top tier last year, replace Khemara as the premier side of group E.

league champions Phnom Penh Crown begin their crusade under new coach
Bojan Hodak, who will miss the three preliminary matches due to
commitments towards obtaining his UEFA Pro coaching license in his
native Croatia.

Crown have drafted in Kouch Sokumpheak from
Khemara Keila and Khim Borey from National Defence Ministry during the
off season, and the two formidable front men could not have hoped for a
better environment to blend in.

There is no opposition worth the name for Crown in a group D pool filled up with three relatively weak provincial sides.

runners-up Preah Khan Reach have a wish list that includes bringing in
players from the team’s youth pool into the main stream.

Ork Samnang sees absolutely no threats to the team’s safe passage to
the next stage and hopes that by then, the newcomers would have found
their right footing.

Friendlies in neighbouring Malaysia during December should prove an added advantage for the military police backed side.

defending Cup champions MND, the exodus of many key players may cut
deep, but assistant coach Hor Sokheng is confident that new players
will rise to the occasion.

MND lost local heroes such as Khim Borey, Nov Sokseila, Samreth Seiha and Sin Dalin during the post-season reshuffle.

interesting proposition in MND’s group F is Division 2 winners National
Police Commissary, who are also relishing their promotion into the
Metfone C-League this year. Manager Suo Moniroth notes his team’s
absolute fitness and boundless energy as clear positives. Life may not
be that easy for Life University in this group, but having qualified
for the second phase twice before, they will looking for a miracle of
sorts to maintain their strong tradition.

For established
University backed side Build Bright United, the storyline is slightly
different. The team have acquired Keo Chea and Heng Sok Ly from Crown
to reinforce the squad that finished third in the league last year.
Manager Bun Pich Mony feels BBU is cut above the others three in group

Sensational defeats in the Super 4 playoffs saw Naga Corp end
in a disappointing fourth in the league, and vastly experienced coach
Prak Sovanara is determined to start the new year on a brighter note.
The former national team coach said his players had been training well
and were ready to reclaim lost ground.

While most of the
provincial teams are desperate to make the Phnom Penh rounds, previous
experience against top clubs for these lesser mortals have not been
particularly promising. An official from one of the provincial sides
noted: “every good performance, every victory, even every goal and
every save our goalkeepers make come as a blessing because this is the
only chance we get to play with the country’s best.”

It is this spirit of competition that enlivens the Samdech Hun Sen Cup as a whole.

Phnom Penh Post
Categories: Soccer, Sport News
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