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This South-East Asian #bledontour starts in Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia. Our first goal: to meet the official champions, the Phnom Penh Crown FC. We’ve been talking to their press agent lately, and he allows us to come visit their facilities and watch the training. Once we’re there, we have the opportunity to meet a few players, including four French-Khmer ones, who tell us about the club, the Cambodian football and the national team.
[Bledipedia] Phnom Penh Crown FC is a professional club founded in 2001, which is part of the Metfone C-League, the highest division in Cambodia. The club changed its name several times: in the beginning, it was called Samart United, then, it was renamed Hello United, Phnom Penh united, Phnom Penh Empire, before its current name was established in 2009. Since the creation of the league in 1982, it’s the country’s record holder, with 5 titles.
Before coming to Cambodia, we inquired about professional football in the country, and, like often in Asia, the recurrent informations are stories of corruption between clubs, mafia, and the football federation. Well, at least, we’re aware of that. When we show up at RSN Stadium, we’re not sure about approaching the subject or not. In the end, we don’t have to. Very quickly, the players tell us about it, and explain us the PPCFC’s philosophy.
We’re told that the club must face its opponents, not only on the field, but especially out of the field. Indeed, since its manager Sam Schweingruber arrived in 2012, the Phnom Penh Crown FC aims to develop an image of “sane” club in Cambodia. It has been imposing its rigor, its ideology and required a flawless attitude from the players, and a total integrity. Several players, including team’s executives have by the way refused to respect that; have expressed their differences of opinion and used their influence on other players for them to follow their rebellion. Since then, those players have left the team on a decision from the president, who supported his manager’s methods.
Boris Kok, one of the club’s oldest players told me: “Last year, we won the championship, but we had to fight twice as more as others, against our opponents, against the referees. I think that the federation is not happy about us winning, because we’re different than the others. In Cambodia, we’re the team to beat.” Official champions, the Crowns aim to keep their throne this season, but the championship only started again in July because the competition has had a 6 months delay due to habitual organization problems inside the Cambodian federation.
The PPCFC is one of the rare teams in the country to own its youth academy. It’s the president’s priority, who invested a lot in structures able to welcome and train Cambodia’s next talents. The capital’s club organizes each year a scouting day, where children from the whole country are invited to pass a test. The best ones are welcomed in the academy, where they are accommodated, go to school in the morning and train in the afternoon. Each one of them dreams of joining the first team and become professionals.
Besides being able to draw in its training center, the Phnom Penh Crown FC also sees further and recruits players from the all over the world: Brazil, Japan, Nigeria, and also France. Currently, four French players are part of the team: Boris Kok and Thierry Chantha Bin are in the club since 2012, Sokthorn Va arrived in September 2014, and the last one, Danny Srei, joined them in the beginning of the year. Those four players have something in common: they’re all from Cambodia; so they’ve come back to their country to make their dream come true: become professionals. For them, this return to their roots is, of course, an opportunity in their careers, but, mostly, a chance to live in their country of origin and revive their roots. Some of them have become superstars. “Thierry Bin is a star in Cambodia, he’s the best Cambodian player” tells his team-member and friend Boris Kok. Best “Cambodian” player because he was able to get the double nationality, and today plays for Cambodia’s national team.
Despite the internal problems that are hitting Cambodian football, the Crowns play their cards right in a championship where bribes are often kings; they must face their opponents on many fronts but have known how to keep their integrity and their philosophy within the club. And for this, we tip those Crowns our hats.
Full Name : Phnom Penh Crown Football Club
Nickname : Crown
Bled : Cambodia
Founded : 2001
Stadium : RSN Stadium (capacity : 5,000)
League : Metfone C-League
Manager : Sam Schweingruber (Switzerland)