Sunday, August 9, 2009

African clean sweep

Powerhouse centre-forward Ekene Michael Ikenwa netted in their 4-1 success
Commanding Preah Khan centre-half Sani Saidu who scored today
It was an all-African clean sweep for the goals in Saturday's solitary Cambodian Premier League game at Olympic, as Preah Khan Reach returned to top spot with an easy 4-1 win over struggling Post Tel. Players from African countries, the majority coming from Nigeria, make up nearly all of the 30 or so foreign players on the books of the ten CPL teams. In the main, they occupy the key positions at centre-half, central midfield and as strikers, and provide the spine of all teams except the Ministry of National Defense, who prefer to field solely Khmer players. Today's game saw no divergence from that trend as Preah Khan featured two powerfully-built strikers and a brickhouse stopper, whilst Post Tel went for a leggy striker and two heavyweight central midfielders for their allotted three foreign players on the field at any one time. Preah Khan's strength in depth served them well in this game and though they gave Post Tel time on the ball and a whiff of a few chances, they were simply too strong for the opposition and won at a canter. Goals from their twin strikeforce of Ekene Ikenwa and Olisa Onyemerea kept Post Tel subdued and second-half strikes from Sani Saidu and Onyemerea again made the result one-sided before Henri Bitga netted a penalty for the underdogs in injury time. The game, the result (4-1) and the scorers certainly demonstrate the importance of the African contingent to the CPL matches but to me there's a downside to their dominance and that is the fewer opportunities afforded to younger, talented Khmer players in their positions. In most leagues that allow foreigners, they are spread around the team in every position but in Cambodia their appearances on the teamsheet are much more predictable, as I mentioned above. And this must in turn have a detrimental affect on the youngsters with certain teams, take Preah Khan as an example. With their two striker positions taken by the Nigerians, there's no way in for their locally-born strikers, and that in the long run will impede the country's national team in my view. No one wants to make unnecessary rules or deny anyone a playing contract but if teams were only allowed one foreigner per the three parts of the team (defence, midfield, attack) then that would give the opportunities I'm seeking. Unworkable I know but I'm clutching at straws.

Two more reasons to watch football at the Olympic Stadium today
Preah Khan's 4-1 success took them back to the top of the CPL
Post Tel finding it a tough ask to line-up for a pre-match team photo



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