Saturday, November 22, 2008

Salute the champions

Salute the CPL Champions, Phnom Penh Empire
I finally got to see my first Cambodia Premier League footy matches today and they just so happened to be two of the final games of the season. The Championship title has already been won by Phnom Penh Empire, at a canter, over their nearest rivals Preah Khan Reach and Build Bright United. The margin going into this weekend's final games was ten points. However, Empire have taken their foot off the pedal in recent times and were guilty of the same again this afternoon against the National Defense team, with the latter winning 2-nil leaving Empire looking anything but a title-winning outfit, with three consecutive defeats to close their season. Cambodia's national team saviour Khim Borey did the damage for the military team, scoring the first with a lob and after the break, his cross was deflected in by a defender to register a two-goal success against their jaded opponents. In the first game of the afternoon at the Olympic Stadium, the half a dozen African-born players dominated the match between Build Bright and Khemara Keila, which BBU won 3-1. Both games were played in the hot scorching afternoon sun. The standard was poor if comparing it to the football I'm used to in England both at Football League and Conference levels, but then again us Brits don't play in these hot-house conditions. The passing was quite slick at times, the teams moved the ball around on the floor and tried to play a passing game, whilst the African players stood out with their physical presence and natural skill against the smaller in stature and busy Khmer players. I didn't care much for the agonized rolling around the floor only for the player to be stretchered off and then jump to his feet instantly, but this disease has spread across the globe and Cambodia is no exception.
The successful National Defense line-up, with Khim Borey on the far right, back row
The two teams walk out into the arena, led by international stars Khim Borey (red) and Chan Rithy (blue)
A sizeable crowd of about a thousand turned up to watch the games at the Olympic Stadium
Postscript: Following the final two games of the season played on Sunday afternoon, there was a late shuffle in two of the final top three places in the Cambodia Premier League, though of course nothing could stop Phnom Penh Empire from claiming the Championship, with a six-point gap over their nearest challengers. For their coffers the club received a cash-prize of $10,000, to add to the Hun Sen Cup they've already won this year. Runners-up were the National Defense team, boasting the league's top scorer and Golden Boot winner Khim Borey with 18 goals. Pipped into third place were last year's winners Naga Corp, with Preah Khan Reach inched out into fourth on goal difference.

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